Professional titles

The education and tasks of people working in mental health care differ from each other. There are many professional titles and roles, which may sometimes confuse the client. This section briefly describes the professional titles and tasks.


Psychiatry is a special field of medicine examining and treating mental disorders. A psychiatrist has completed a basic licentiate’s degree in medicine; i.e. they are doctors who, after the completion of the degree, have specialised in psychiatry. They can specialise in psychiatry, child psychiatry, youth psychiatry and forensic psychiatry.

Psychiatrists diagnose patients and determine the necessary form of treatment, such as medication or psychotherapy, often together with the patient. Psychiatrists are the only mental health professionals allowed to prescribe medication.


Psychologists are people who have completed academic master’s degrees in psychology. The use of the title requires an official licensure. Psychology, as a scientific discipline, studies human thoughts, behaviour and actions, as well as their relationship to themselves and other people.

Psychologists perform a variety of tasks in the healthcare sector and elsewhere in the society. Psychologists work, for example, at general and psychiatric hospitals, psychiatric polyclinics, child and family guidance clinics, as school psychologists and as vocational psychologists at the employment office. Their tasks vary greatly according to the job; at mental health care, psychologists map out and investigate the patient’s situation and provide conversational help.


Psychotherapists can be, for example, psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers by education. After their basic education, they will have completed separate psychotherapist’s training. Psychotherapists offer psychotherapy, the purpose of which is to improve self-awareness and solve personal problems. Psychotherapists can work with individuals, families or groups. Read more about psychotherapists and psychotherapy.

Psychiatrist, psychologist and psychotherapist are protected professional titles. Valvira (former TEO) grants practitioners of these professions the right to use the professional titles on the basis of their education. Therefore, not just anyone can legally call himself/herself, for instance, psychotherapist.

Psychiatric nurse

Psychiatric nurses are medical nurses graduated from an institute or polytechnic, and specialised in psychiatric nursing. Psychiatric nurses normally provide conversational help, as well as information and support to patients suffering from mental disorders or to people in different crisis situations.

Depression nurse

Depression nurses can be, for example, psychiatric nurses by training; they provide conversational help at the health care centre. Depression nurses work in the majority of Finnish health care centres. At health care centres, people suffering from mild or moderate depression - and in some cases from phobic anxiety disorders - are referred to the depression nurse. During the appointment, the patient will be offered information and support for the solution of their current problems. Patients usually make 4 to 6 visits to the depression nurse’s appointment.

Crisis worker

Crisis workers are professionals who have completed polytechnic or university degrees in social services or health care. They can be, for example, psychologists, psychiatric nurses or social workers. In addition, they have received training in crisis work, for example to become crisis therapists. Crisis workers can be found at municipal crisis centres or the crisis centres of MIELI Mental Health Finland, for instance. Crisis workers provide conversational help for people in crises and support catastrophe victims.

Mental health nurse

Mental health nurses have completed basic degrees in health care and social services, specialising in mental health and substance abuse work. Mental health nurses work widely in the healthcare industry, such as at psychiatric wards in hospitals, outpatient departments and health care centres.

Practical nurse

Practical nurses have completed basic degrees in health care and social services, specialising, for example, in mental health and substance abuse work. Practical nurses work widely in the healthcare industry, such as at hospitals and retirement homes.

Social worker

Social workers have completed university degrees, majoring in social work. They work in many sectors of the society, such as in different units of social services, psychiatric hospitals or as school counsellors. They provide guidance and advice for their clients on how to earn their income and arrange services.

Social instructor

Social instructors have completed polytechnic degrees in health care and social services. They work with customers in health care and social services. Their tasks include, for example, supporting and guiding their clients, in addition to other rehabilitating work.

Occupational therapist

Occupational therapists have completed polytechnic degrees in health care and social services. They work at hospitals and rehabilitation centres, for example. Their tasks include supporting their clients in their everyday life and helping them to obtain skills to independently cope with their everyday activities.