What's What: Keys to Titles & Letters
"What's the difference between a cloud and a mist?"
Mental Health counselors and therapists come with a variety of names and titles. It can be confusing when you don’t know where to turn for help. Here is a little guide to clear up some of the terminology.
Psychologists or Psychiatrists are what most people think of when they imagine a psychotherapist. But psychotherapy can be done by Ministers, Social Workers, Nurses, Marriage & Family Therapists, and others if they have the proper training and certification.
Psychologists (LP’s) are behavioral specialists. All states now require anyone who calls themselves a Psychologist to meet specific training and supervision requirements, as well as to pass a national examination, before they can be licensed to practice independently. With few exceptions, they will hold a doctoral level degree such as a Ph.D. or PsyD, and have the letters LP (Licensed Psychologist) after their names. Psychologist do psychotherapy as well as psychological testing and diagnostic assessments. Often, the Psychologist may be called on to consult with or to supervise other members of a clinic team, any of whom may be your actual therapist.
Psychiatrists (MD’s and DO’s) are medical physicians who also specialize in the treatment of mental illness. They can do psychotherapy, but in most settings today, their function is to prescribe and manage psychotropic medications. Often they will lead the treatment team. In other cases they only sit in as a consultant. DO stands for Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. In Psychiatry in the US, there is little real difference in practice between MD’s and DO’s.
Nurses can play a number of different roles in the Behavioral Health delivery system. Some Nurse RN’s practice as psychotherapists, while other Nurse RN’s or LPN’s (Licensed Practical Nurses) may assist the psychiatrists with medication management. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN’s) who in Mental Health will also be certified as either a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) or a Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP), also do a lot of the diagnosing, prescribing, and medication management that was once the sole province of the Psychiatrist. In a few states, Psychologists are also allowed to prescribe certain psychotropic medication. Minnesota is NOT one of those states.
Marriage & Family Therapists (LMFT’s) are also behavioral specialists. In addition to marriage and couples counseling, they also may provide individual and/or group psychotherapy across the age continuum. LMFT’s will have a Masters or doctoral degree and will have met state licensure and examination requirements.
Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LICSW’s) are Masters Degree social workers trained to practice independently as psychotherapists. Multidisciplinary clinics are likely to have number of other social workers (SW’s, MSW’s, LGSW’s) who provide a variety of extremely important collateral services like helping clients transition from hospital to community, locate housing resources, qualify for financial benefits, or coordinate a confusing array of services.
Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors (LPCC’s ) have completed either a Masters or Doctoral degree in a behavioral health or related field and the equivalent of two years of supervised post Masters experience providing clinical services. They must also have passed a national examination and met other requirements of the state board that regulates such counselors.
Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors (LADC’s) can be Bachelors or Masters level Chemical Health professionals who are trained in the diagnoses and treatment of substance abuse disorders. They, too, must meet strict education and training requirements, including 2000 hours (at least 1 year) of post degree supervised clinical practice, and pass a national exam.
Mental Health Practitioners are not licensed to practice independently. They may be students currently enrolled in a training program, or post degree practitioners who are working under the supervision of a licensed professional. They may or may not be working toward independent one of the licensure statuses mentioned elsewhere on this site. But many of them are involved as counselors, in-home therapists, case managers, or intake workers. Oftentimes, they may be among the first people you encounter as you try to work your way into the system.
What’s What: Keys to Titles & Letters “What’s the difference between a cloud and a mist?” Mental Health counselors and therapists Mental Health counselors and therapists come with a variety of names and titles. It can be confusing when you don’t know where to turn for help. Here is a little guide to clear up […]Read More
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