Who Can Diagnose ADHD?

Titles and job descriptions can be confusing, especially in the alphabet soup of PhDs, M.D.s, LCSWs and others. What difference does it make?

Choosing the appropriate professional for diagnosis and treatment can be hard. Each specialty has strengths and weaknesses. Here is a short list of who does what when it comes to diagnosing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD).


The Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist, an M.D. who treats the brain, may prescribe medication or other treatment.

Advantages:

  • Trained in diagnosis
  • Able to diagnose, prescribe medication and treat.

Disadvantages

  • Cost - fees usually start about $200 an hour and go up from there.
  • While psychiatrists can diagnose and treat, they may not be trained in counseling, especially in the areas of day to day life skills which may be needed by the person who has ADD/ADHD.

The Psychologist

A psychologist understands how the mind works, but is not an M.D. and cannot prescribe medications. If the psychologist feels that medications are called for, he or she will have to refer the patient to either a medical doctor or a psychiatrist.

Advantages:

  • trained in diagnosis
  • trained in counseling
  • cost less than a psychiatrist

Disadvantages

  • Cannot prescribe medications
  • need to refer for MRI or any other testing which could assist in diagnosis.

Your Family Doctor

Most family doctors know of ADD/ADHD but may lack the extensive knowledge of more specialized professionals.

Advantages:

  • Is already familiar with you and your medical history
  • Is usually easier to see for an appointment
  • Can prescribe medications if needed
  • Less expensive

Disadvantages

  • May have limited experience with ADD/ADHD, especially in adults
  • Cannot offer counseling
  • Brief office visits often mean a hurried diagnosis

The Nurse Practitioner

Working under the supervision of a general practitioner, a registered nurse offers many of the same benefits and drawbacks as a family doctor.

Advantages:

  • Is usually easier to see for an appointment
  • Can prescribe medications if needed
  • Less expensive
  • Can offer referral to specialist if needed

Disadvantages

  • May have limited experience with ADD/ADHD, especially in adults
  • Cannot offer counseling

The Neurologist

A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in treatment of the brain and central nervous system.

Advantages:

  • Can determine if other conditions such as seizure disorder are present.

Disadvantages:

  • Expensive
  • EEG testing for ADD/ADHD isn't needed for diagnosis or treatment
  • Patient must be referred for any counseling or therapy

The Master Level Counselor

A Master level counselor has a master's degree in either psychology or counseling. They may be able to do an initial assessment if they have the appropriate training.

Advantages:

  • Is able to provide counseling, behavior management, and problem solving
  • Less expensive than psychiatric care

Disadvantages:

  • May have trouble with a differential diagnosis (identifying other possible problems)
  • Will need to refer patient to a doctor or other professional
  • Cannot prescribe medication

The Social Worker

A Master of Social Welfare (MSW) or a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) is often employed by an agency (for example, public healthcare resources) to provide counseling to people served by the agency.

Advantages:

  • Inexpensive

Disadvantages:

  • May have trouble with a differential diagnosis (identifying other possible problems)
  • Will need to refer patient to a doctor or other professional
  • Cannot prescribe medication

TAGS: Choosing an ADHD Professional

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