Written by: Robert R. Cassman, LPCC-S
Navigating the field of therapy is difficult enough, especially when there are so many credentials. These letters that follow the names of therapists can be quite confusing. In this brief article, I will attempt to explain some of those letters.
MD: A “medical doctor” is someone who has gone to college, then medical school, and then to a residency to specialize in a particular type of medicine. An MD can prescribe medication for a variety of illnesses. A psychiatrist is an MD with specialized training in psychiatric medication.
LPCC: A “Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor” is a therapist who has obtained his or her master’s degree and has earned a license to practice professional therapy. To obtain this license, at least two years’ worth of professional experience and training is required. Someone with an LPCC is a professional counselor who views the mental health issues people struggle with on an individual level.
LMFT: A “Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist” is similar to the LPCC except the training is more focused on marriages and families and not so much the individual.
LCSW: A “Licensed Clinical Social Worker” has some similarities to the LPCC and the LMFT but some differences as well. The LCSW tends to view the issues a client struggles with from a perspective that looks at the society at large. LCSWs tend to advocate for social change and social justice. A LCSW can get a bad rap because many employees from social services and DCBS-type agencies have social work degrees. But not all LCSWs are out to take away your children! An LCSW is a professional therapist too.
PhD/PsyD: A “Doctor of Philosophy” (PhD) is usually a psychologist who has received a doctorate and focuses primarily on testing. If you child needs an ADHD test, or someone needs an IQ test more than likely a psychologist would do the test. A “PsyD” is a Doctor of Psychology and does mostly what a PhD-psychologist would do. Both of these tend to be professors in universities as well.
A therapist can be called a “doctor” if he or she has a doctorate degree in any field. This may be confusing as some will think of a “doctor” as only someone with a medical degree. But a doctorate can be earned in many different fields.
Professional licensing boards require that therapists provide proof to the public that therapists are who they say they are. This leads to the credentials being placed on the walls of offices etc. Therapists also do this by listing their credentials after their names. There are also credentialing organizations that give credentials to individuals who have obtained certain types of experiences and training. Above I have listed some of the basic credentials. There are many more. If you are unsure, simply ask the therapist. All therapists would be happy to explain all the letters after their name. Just ask.