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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness


Glossary of Terms
Professionals involved in the care of people with mental health problems


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Advocate helps people obtain the information they need to make an informed decision in areas such as legal rights, treatments or services. An advocate can also support the patient during a meeting with a doctor or another professional, and represent their views, if asked.


Approved Social Worker (ASW) is a qualified social worker who has done further training in mental health and the Mental Health Act. An ASW plays a key role in assessing whether or not someone should be detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act.
An Art Therapist is a professional who has undergone specialist training in a form of psychotherapy which uses art making within a therapeutic relationship or group, as a means of assisting a person in discovering, exploring and clarifying their thoughts and feelings.



Cognitive Therapist is someone who has been trained in the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is a form of psychotherapy. It is a way of helping people to cope with stress and emotional problems by talking about the connections between the way we think, how we feel and how we behave. See our factsheet on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for further information.
Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) supports people with mental health problems in the community. CMHT members include community psychiatric nurses (CPNs), social workers, psychologists, occupational therapists, psychiatrists and support workers. Team members are often based in the same mental health centre.
Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) is a nurse who specialises in mental health, and has received further training to enable them to work in the community where they will assess and treat people with mental health problems.
Consultant See psychiatrist.
Counsellor is someone who uses ‘counselling’ to solve people’s problems or plan for the future. A counsellor may work with individual patients, in pairs or groups. Counselling helps people address and resolve their problems and work through their feelings.
Clinical Psychologist is a psychologist who has undergone specialist training in the treatment of people with mental health problems.



Occupational Therapist is someone who uses purposeful activity and meaningful occupation to help people with mental health problems. OTs play a key role in helping people overcome problems and gain confidence in themselves. See the College of Occupational Therapists for further information.



Psychologist is a professional who is interested in how people think, how they act, react and interact. See the British Psychological Society website for further information.
A Psychotherapist is a mental health professional who has had a specialist training in one of the Psychotherapies. The psychotherapies are often called 'talking treatments' because they are ways of talking that help people better understand themselves and their problems. This process can help to solve problems and relieve symptoms. There are many different types of Psychotherapy,and many ways of being trained. See the factsheet on Psychotherapy, for more detailed information. Psychiatrists, psychologists people from other backgrounds can train to become a psychotherapist. See the British Association of Psychotherapists' website or British Psychoanalytic Council website for further information.
Psychiatristis a doctor who specialises in mental health problems and is trained to deal with the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders. You may come across the following grades:
  • Consultant is a doctor who has reached a senior position in terms of qualifications, treating people, training other doctors and helping to organize and run services.
  • Clinical assistant is an experienced and senior doctor working under the supervision of a consultant.



Staff grade is an experienced doctor who is working under the supervision of the consultant.
Specialist Registrar (SpR) is a doctor who has completed the Senior House Officer (SHO) part of specialist training and who has passed the membership examination of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. They are undergoing the final three years of training before applying for a consultant post.
Senior House Officer is a doctor who is in the first three years of their training as a specialist. As well as gaining experience, they are studying to pass their membership exams for the Royal College of Psychiatrists. They will work for, and be supervised by, a consultant.
Support Worker provides practical help and support to people with mental health problems. They work for the community mental health team.
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