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Can a Therapist Diagnose You?

Katelyn Hagerty

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 12/7/2022

Seeing a therapist might seem like a natural place to start your mental health journey, but not all therapists can give you a diagnosis. Read on to be sure you can get a diagnosis from a therapist in your state to reap the benefits of therapy straightaway.

Can a Therapist Diagnose Me?

Although it does vary by state, in most situations, a licensed professional counselor (LPC) or equivalent (e.g., therapist) can give a mental health diagnosis.

The first important criterion for a mental health diagnosis is that the licensed professional counselor or therapist has a valid license in your state. Each state has a specific set of licensure requirements that often include a combination of education, experience, and an exam.

Do note that many states have levels lower than “professional,” such as associate, intern, etc, which must be under the supervision of an LPC and, therefore, cannot diagnose you on their own.

If the provider’s license is valid in your state, then the state matters. As of this writing, licensed professional therapists, counselors, and other non-physician mental health professionals are only denied the ability to diagnose in two states, Indiana and Maine.

Therefore in 48 states, you may be diagnosed by a therapist with the appropriate licensure. Licensed professional therapists are expressly granted the power to diagnose in 32 states.

Can A Therapist Diagnose Me With Anxiety or Depression?

If the licensure and state requirements above are met, then yes, a therapist can make a mental health diagnosis for the purpose of treatment.

This means they can determine that you have sufficient signs of the condition and can administer therapy within the boundaries of their qualifications to treat depression or anxiety.

It is important to note what LPCs, like therapists, cannot do: prescribe medication. If you need more than behavioral therapy — which happens more often than you might expect — medication is a clear place where there are limitations on a therapist’s professional power.

You might also consider seeing a psychologist for your mental health conditions. Similarly, psychologists can diagnose you formally but cannot write medication prescriptions. Only a general practitioner or psychiatrist (who are medical doctors) can prescribe medications like antidepressants to treat mental health disorders.

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What Can I be Diagnosed With?

Once you’re working with the right person with the right qualifications, the sky is the limit on what they can diagnose you with — there aren’t limits on certain conditions. 

There are a substantial number of mental illnesses, disorders, and sub-classifications of disorders that you might be diagnosed with. 

A psychologist, psychiatrist, or general practitioner can diagnose you with anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and more — really anything that qualifies as a mental health condition.

There’s also reason to consider whether getting a formal diagnosis is worth it. 

We get it — there are numerous benefits to a formal diagnosis: you know your problem, you have access to medication, and your therapy is targeted. But that all assumes that your diagnosis is, well, accurate. 

There’s an argument being made by some experts that a formal diagnosis of mental illness is not always in a patient’s best interest. For starters, a diagnosis can be limiting, especially for people who have multiple mental health or medical conditions, like both anxiety and depression.

Some experts also acknowledge that the current understanding and categorizations of various mental illnesses are sometimes limiting or incomplete.

Now, many of the experts in question also called for abolishing the current organization of mental health diagnostics. We should take this opportunity to point out that there are clear benefits to the existing systems. 

People gain self-awareness from a codified system. A codified diagnostic system also allows society to have some basic, organized understanding of the mental health conditions affecting many of their fellow human beings. But whether or not this system is perfect is another question. 

What we’re getting at here is that if you came here to get a fast diagnosis to “move this whole process along” or something along those lines, you might want to consider the bigger picture of your mental health goals. A formal diagnosis can be an effective tool in getting “better,” but it’s not always a necessity to begin a treatment plan.

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Getting a Diagnosis: Next Steps

So where do you go for help with mental health issues, then? Mental health providers? A clinical psychologist? A mental health counselor? Some friendly face on social media with a doctoral degree that looks like it was printed off an inkjet? 

Truth be told (aside from that last one, who probably should be arrested), your first stop on the road to mental wellness isn’t as important as the destination — there are many paths to a healthy mind.

Whether you’re looking for medication, a diagnosis or just some support as you begin working through your mental health concerns, you should start in the same place: a consultation with a healthcare provider. 

You’ve probably heard this advice before, but when you have a mental health issue that needs treating, don’t worry so much about labels, whether it’s the type of mental health professional you see or what you think your diagnosis may be.

Regardless of their qualifications, licensed psychiatrists and therapists are more than qualified to give you professional advice on what to do next.

For a therapist, that might mean referring you to someone who can prescribe medication. And even though a psychiatrist can diagnose and prescribe medication, they may even refer to someone who can better meet your individual needs. 

What matters least is what professional you speak with first; what matters most is speaking to someone as soon as possible. 

Still not sure where to start? You could always try online therapy or other mental health services we offer online. Both are convenient and easy ways to find the right professional partner for your treatment journey and get more information on where your quest should take you next.

2 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Timimi, S. (2014, April 28). No more psychiatric labels: Why Formal Psychiatric Diagnostic Systems should be abolished. International Journal of Clinical and Health Psychology. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S169726001400009X.
  2. Types of mental health care professionals: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Types of Mental Health Care Professionals | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2022, from https://adaa.org/find-help/treatment-help/types-of-therapy/types-of-mental-health-care-professionals.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

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