LICSW, MFT, LCMHC, LPC.
Social worker, counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist.
The myriad of titles and degrees in the mental health field can be confusing to the average person who is just trying to find the best resource for his or her own mental health needs.
There are essentially three categories of mental health professionals: psychiatrists, who are medical doctors; psychologists, who have a doctorate; and masters level clinicians, which includes social workers, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, and pastoral counselors.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors. They complete traditional medical school training and then pursue additional training in psychiatry. Psychiatrists prescribe psychotropic medications and provide medication monitoring.
Most psychiatrists today don’t provide ongoing psychotherapy services, although they may provide some therapy during appointments for medication checks. Psychiatrists may consult with the psychotherapist (either a psychologist or a master’s level clinician) providing care to a client.
Psychologists have earned their PhD and may focus either on clinical work, research or some combination of both. They also have specialized training to administer a number of tests used in psychological assessment and diagnosis, including intelligence tests, projective tests (such as the Rorschach).
Many psychologists provide psychotherapy in individual and group settings. Others focus solely on testing and assessment or on psychological research.
Master’s Level Psychotherapists
There are several master’s level psychotherapy disciplines. All are qualified to provide psychotherapy to individuals, groups, or families and their knowledge of psychology and therapeutic treatment strategies is generally equivalent. There are, however, some slight nuances in their training and/or perspectives.
Clinical Social Workers take a systems-oriented perspective and often focus on advocacy and policy change as much as they do on psychotherapy. Social workers may be found in hospitals or schools where they may help connect clients with other necessary services.
Marriage and Family Therapists focus on the problems and needs of couples and families. Marriage and family therapists look at emotional disorders and behavioral difficulties within the context of the family system.
Mental Health Counselors often bring a practical problem solving and overall wellness perspective to the counseling process.
You will find all master’s level disciplines in a variety of settings, including independent practice, community agencies managed behavioral health organizations, hospitals, employee assistance programs, and substance abuse treatment centers.
National Association of Social Workers (http://www.helpstartshere.org/about-social-workers)
American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (http://www.aamft.org/about/Aboutaamft.asp)
American Mental Health Counselor’s Association (http://amhca.org/about/facts.aspx)