Who Can Help

Finding someone who ‘gets it’, who understands what you are experiencing can be one of the most important steps in your recovery. Some might hit it off immediately with the first professional they go to, whilst others might take some time to find the person they feel genuinely comfortable talking to. The important thing to remember is to not give up! There is someone out there who is willing to step into your shoes and help you find your way forward. Psychologist? Psychiatrist? Psychotherapy? We often hear of different professions and we might be confused as to who might be able to help us at a particular point in time. We created the guide below to help you better understand the difference between different professionals.

Practitioners’ Guide

General Practitioner (GP)

Your trusted family doctor is one of the starting points to seek professional help. They will be able to make an assessment and check for any physical health issues which might be impacting your mental health. Through this assesment, the GP may be able to explain the symptoms being experienced. They can also suggest certain lifestyle changes or coping mechanisms that can be useful. They will also refer you to specialists such a psychiatrist and a therapist if they feel this is required. However it is advised that if medical treatment is recommended, this must be under the strict supervision solely of a psychiatrist.

Psychology Officers

When you first reach out to a helpline or a chat, you will most likely be talking to a Psychology Officer. Psychology Officers are mental health professionals trained in various social fields such as psychology, social work and youth work. Through their education and training, they are able to holistically assist those individuals in recovery from a wide variety of mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety. With their therapeutic interventions and support, the concerned individual will be guided and supported both through emotional and practical means. The Psychology Officers will work alongside the person and other involved professionals to create an individualised care-plan attributed to the personal needs, whilst being compliant with psychiatric treatment and care. Psychology Officers can generally be found working within community services, such as within Richmond.

Social Workers

You do not need a referral to start your sessions with a social worker, and can be generally sought for free. Social Workers working in the mental health field are warranted by the Malta Social Work Profession Board. The main objective of Social Work is to empower individuals and communities to reach their full potential and to maintain a good quality of life within society. They are trained in assessing, guiding and helping with a wide variety of problems through practical skills. Social workers also assist people in managing their daily lives, coping with issues, dealing with relationships, and solving personal and family problems.


You do not need a referral to start your sessions with a counsellor. Counsellors provide psychological support. They are able to work in multiple settings, including private clinics, community mental health centers and services, educational systems and youth services. Counsellors may also have specific training in topics such as addictions and can be found in rehabilitation centers.


You do not need a referral to start your sessions with a psychologist. Psychologists are individuals who have studied human behaviour at University, and furthered their studies by pursuing a Master degree in a specialized area such as clinical, counselling, health, educational, forensic and organisational. Psychologists are registered with a national registration board and are also warranted following 2 years of supervised practice. Through their education and training, they are able to apply psychological therapies and interventions to a wide variety of clients with mental health issues and illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. Psychologists are not medical professionals and thus do not possess the capacity to prescribe medication. Depending on their training, psychologists are able to carry out assessments and provide a diagnosis. They can be found in many different settings, including hospital, clinics, community centers, schools, rehabilitation centers and correctional facilities.


You do not need a referral to start your sessions with a psychotherapist. Through their training, psychotherapists can help and support an individual experiencing troubling symptoms to function in a better and healthier way, while also building a therapeutic environment conducive to healing. Psychotherapy can be useful to work through difficulties such as trauma, grief, depression and anxiety, as well as specific mental illnesses such as OCD and psychosis. There are several different types of psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Systemic Family Therapy and Gestalt Psychotherapy.

Are you considering starting therapy? Read some FAQs about taking the first step and what to expect from therapy.

Psychiatric Nurses

Psychiatric Nurses are registered nurses specialised in the treatment and care of persons with mental illnesses. They are generally found in medical settings such as hospitals, clinics and community settings and services. Psychiatric nurses can provide assistance with medication and practical support, as well as counselling if further training has been conducted.

Occupational Therapists (OT)

Occupational therapists aid in the treatment of physical, psychological and psychiatric conditions by conducting interventions attributed to maximising the person’s functionality, autonomy and independence in all aspects of daily life. They are also able to intervene in skills such as self-care, domestic tasks, employment skills and socialisation. Occupational Therapists can be found in hospitals, rehabilitation centres, community services and care homes. They also conduct home visits and visits in other personal environments so as to be able to assist the person in their own setting.


Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specific training in psychiatry. The GP might refer you to a psychaitrist in situations where they believe you might benefit from the advice of a specialist, if your treatment is not working the way you wished it would or if the problem keeps recurring. A psychiatrist is able to carry out assessments, formulate a diagnosis and create a treatment plan. They are able to conduct medical tests and interventions for severe, brief or long-lasting mental illnesses. Psychiatrists will also review treatment regularly so as to assess for possible side-effects or complications possibly discussed by the client. Psychiatrists work in multiple private and public settings and often work in multidisicplinary teams involving other professionals such as OTs, psychiatric nurses, outreach workers and social workers.