All licensed medical doctors can legally treat unipolar major depression if they choose to do so. All physicians learned about depression in medical school as part of their general medical training. The differences in doctors’ ability to treat depression lies in the training and experience they had after medical school. There are several types of doctors who regularly treat depression, and it is a good idea to understand the differences between them.
Physicians who provide primary care, including general practitioners, internists, family doctors, and obstetricians/gynecologists, may prescribe sedatives and antidepressants and/or refer depressed patients to psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. If they choose to treat depression, most primary care doctors have experience with one or two antidepressants that they use for all or most of their patients. Primary care physicians are often less rigorous in their diagnosis of depression than psychiatrists are.
If you want your primary care physician to treat your depression, it is still a good idea to have a consultation with a psychiatrist, to get the benefits of her expertise in diagnosis and treatment planning.