While many mental health professionals can diagnose and treat schizophrenia, schizophrenia specialists are those who dedicate the majority of their career and focus to this lifelong condition.

Schizophrenia is a lifelong mental health disorder. It’s diagnosed by the presence of hallucinations, delusions, and other features of psychosis that indicate that you’re experiencing altered reality perception.

You might hear voices, see things that aren’t there, or develop unusual and untrue beliefs. Schizophrenia can feel overwhelming, and many people don’t know when they’re experiencing symptoms.

A diagnosis is the first step toward getting symptoms under control. Your treatment team will involve a number of schizophrenia specialists, each an important part of your care program.

Your journey through schizophrenia treatment is usually led by a psychiatrist — a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health disorders. Your psychiatrist acts as your primary care professional, similar to how your general primary physician leads your physical healthcare.

Any psychiatrist can diagnose and treat schizophrenia, but finding one that works exclusively with schizophrenia patients (a schizophrenia specialist) may be helpful.

Other types of professionals can also specialize in schizophrenia.

Dr. Joann Mundin, a board certified psychiatrist based in Los Altos, California, explains that treating schizophrenia involves a multidisciplinary approach.

“This may include medication management, therapy, and other types of support such as case management or peer support groups,” she says.

Mundin indicates schizophrenia specialists on your treatment team may include:

  • Psychiatrist: A mental health professional who can diagnose, prescribe medications, and offer treatment.
  • Psychologist: A mental health professional who specializes in assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental health disorders.
  • Social worker: A mental health professional providing counseling and support services who can connect you to community resources.
  • Psychiatric nurse practitioner: A healthcare professional who can provide medication and wellness education and monitor physical health and vital signs.
  • Occupational therapist: A healthcare professional who can help you develop and maintain daily living skills that may be hindered by schizophrenia.
  • Case manager: A professional, often with a mental health background, who can help coordinate your care services and can provide assistance with housing, finances, and employment.

Not everyone will need the same roster of professionals. For example, you may have a family member who fills the role of a case manager for you.

What is a schizophrenia psychiatrist?

“Schizophrenia psychiatrist” isn’t a formal title, but some psychiatrists may decide to focus on diagnosing and treating only schizophrenia.

What is coordinated specialty care?

When treating schizophrenia, your team of specialists is encouraged to work together, communicating and sharing decision-making in a process known as coordinated specialty care (CSC).

CSC is your schizophrenia specialist team plus your peer groups, your family, general doctors, educational services, community outreach programs, and any other support networks that help you in daily life.

Research suggests that CSC can significantly improve outcomes for people experiencing early psychosis and is superior to traditional, single-approach methods.

One study from 2018 found CSC improved employment rates, decreased the need for hospitalization, and significantly improved academic performance.

According to Mundin, in most countries, psychiatrists are the medical professionals who diagnose schizophrenia.

“However,” she adds, “some other mental health professionals, such as clinical psychologists and psychiatric nurses, may also be involved in the assessment and diagnosis of schizophrenia, especially in a team-based approach.”

That doesn’t mean these are the only healthcare professionals who can diagnose schizophrenia, though.

Ultimately, you can receive a diagnosis from a:

  • psychiatrist
  • psychologist
  • clinical social worker
  • master-level psychoanalyst (counselor, clinician, or therapist)
  • nurse practitioner (general or psychiatric)
  • primary care physician

Not all schizophrenia specialists are able to write prescriptions. Psychologists, for example, can diagnose mental health conditions and administer psychotherapy, but they can’t prescribe medications.

You’ll only be able to obtain a prescription by visiting a:

  • psychiatrist
  • nurse practitioner (general or psychiatric)
  • primary care physician
  • psychiatric pharmacist (depending on state policies)

Schizophrenia involves experiences of psychosis, which typically require a combination of medication and psychotherapy to manage.

Because a psychiatrist can do it all — diagnose, prescribe medications, and conduct psychotherapy — you may be able to receive all of these services from one person, cutting down on the number of appointments you may have.

It’s OK if you don’t have a psychiatrist. Ultimately, your schizophrenia specialist team should be made up of professionals whom you trust. If you’ve found a psychologist or psychotherapist you adore, you don’t have to make a change.

There are a variety of professionals to choose from for diagnosing, prescribing, and treating schizophrenia. Your team can be made up in any way that works for you.

A schizophrenia specialist is any professional who has a career focus on schizophrenia. Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, case workers, and psychiatric nurse practitioners can all be schizophrenia specialists.

When these professionals join forces into a coordinated specialty care team, they provide you the opportunity to manage schizophrenia in every area of your life.