There are many medications for treating bipolar disorder, so a psychiatrist, who is best qualified to identify which drugs work best for a specific patient, should oversee treatment. A psychiatrist is a type of medical doctor (MD or DO) with specialized training in mental health care.
Primary care doctors (also sometimes called general practitioners, or internists, or family practitioners, as well as pediatricians) are general medical doctors who obtain some training in mental health during medical school and residency. They often provide basic or initial assessment and medication treatment for common mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. Bipolar disorder is often misrecognized as “just” depression and usually a medical doctor who is not trained as a psychiatrist will refer patients with bipolar disorder to a psychiatrist or other mental health professional for more specialized care.
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Psychologists and some mental health counselors (PhDs and PsyDs) can provide psychotherapy, or talk therapy, another critical part of treatment. Through therapy, people can develop coping methods that prevent long periods of illness, extended hospital stays, and suicide. They also are uniquely qualified to perform psychological and neuropsychological testing, which can help clarify diagnoses, learning and educational problems, developmental problems, and other behavioral or emotional problems.
Nurses sometimes obtain further training to obtain their doctoral degree in nursing (DNP), Doctor of Nursing (DN) or Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc). Nurses who pursue doctoral-level training often do so in order to obtain advanced training in research methods, administrative leadership, and teaching.
Social workers are psychotherapists who often treat bipolar disorder using talk therapy. They do not prescribe medications. Some may have obtained a professional doctorate degree in social work (DSW) and thus some can be nonmedical doctors.