Mental Health Education

The Therapist Matchmaker: The ABC’s of credentials

Danielle Blyden
February 5, 2024
min read

We’re back with another blog entry! (YouTube voice!) No but seriously we have dedicated an entire blog series to helping you find the perfect therapist! This week we are unraveling the alphabet soup of therapist certifications and degrees. We'll break down the differences between psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, and more, so you can make an informed decision!

As you start your research, pay close attention to the credentials of potential therapists.

Therapists should have at least a master’s degree in their field and be licensed in the state where they practice. The most common types of mental health professionals are listed:

1. Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs)

LCSWs have a Master's in Social Work and have also completed a specific number of hours of therapy experience. They focus on helping individuals, families, and groups enhance their individual and personal well-being. They use strategies from several types of therapy, including cognitive behavioral, dialectal behavioral, or play therapy. They are highly skilled professionals who provide flexible, client-oriented therapy. Danielle the author of this entry ,the owner of Bloom and the founder of the Bloom Method is an LCSW!

2. Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs)

MFTs have a master’s degree and therapy experience in marriage and family therapy. They apply therapeutic techniques to understand and address family-related issues, psychological health, and interpersonal relationships.

3. Psychologists (Ph.D. or Psy.D.)

Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology and are trained in understanding the human mind and emotional responses. They can provide psychological testing and assessments.

4. Psychiatrists (M.D. or D.O.)

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health, including substance use disorders. They're qualified to assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological problems. Because they are medical doctors, psychiatrists can prescribe medication.

5. Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs)

LPCs have a master's degree in psychology or a related field. They work with individuals, families, and groups to treat mental, behavioral, and emotional problems and disorders.

6. Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs):

LMHCs, similar to LPCs, have a master’s degree in mental health counseling or a related field. They work with individuals, families, and groups to address and treat mental and emotional disorders and to promote mental health.

You may also see RCSWI or RMHCI which refers to the Registered Intern Process.

Before fully earning these licenses, mental health professionals go through a period of supervised practice known as an internship or residency. This process, which is usually state-regulated, involves working under the supervision of a licensed professional to gain hands-on experience.

A registered intern is a professional who has completed their educational requirements and is now in this phase of supervised practice. They are legally allowed to provide therapy services but must do so under the direction and supervision of a licensed supervisor.

It's worth noting that while interns are still in the process of gaining their full licensure, they are bound by the same ethical guidelines and standards of practice as fully licensed professionals. When selecting a professional for therapy, it's crucial to consider their licensure status in conjunction with their experience, specialty areas, and the rapport you feel with them.

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