Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT), and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) all have a Masters level education (2 years of graduate school) in their specific fields. All complete post-graduate experience under a licensed professional (usually 2-3 years), and then must pass state and national exams in order to become licensed. All of them can work with individuals, couples, or families. Usually, each therapist develops a specialty with a particular issue or demographic. Here’s how they’re different:
- LMHCs assess, identify, and treat mental disorders that individuals may be facing to improve their coping skills. They can treat children, teenagers, and adults.
- LCSWs provide therapy, too, with a focus on identifying their clients’ strengths in order to help them connect with community resources. Their goal is to help their clients access those resources so they can change their situations instead of changing how they respond/ cope with those situations.
- LMFTs are trained to specifically treat the mental health concerns of couples and families.
MDs, PhDs, and PsyDs all have doctorate degrees and complete extensive post-graduate training in their area(s) of specialty. They’re also the only mental health practitioners that can call themselves “doctors”.
MD means “medical doctor”. These physicians have gone to medical school, and have trained to have a specialty in psychiatry. Of all the mental health providers mentioned in the article, they’re the only ones that can prescribe medications for mental health disorders. Many psychiatrists specialize in medication management of psychiatric disorders. However, this is changing recently. Many of them are choosing to stop taking insurance payments and re-engaging in providing their clients with psychotherapy as well.
Ph.D. means “doctor of philosophy” in psychology, while Psy.D. means “doctor of psychology”. Both are extensively trained (8-10 years) in a specialty, clinical research, and theory. According to the state of Florida, professionals with these degrees are the only ones that can call themselves Licensed Psychologist upon passing state and national examinations. They are also the only ones that can administer, interpret, and report the results of psychological tests. PhDs often work as professors and researchers in labs, but you’ll also find some PhDs providing therapy in agencies, hospitals, and private practices. PsyDs apply the findings of clinical research done by PhDs to their work with clients in psychological counseling and testing.
Not all doctorate degrees are created equally. In fact, the US Department of Education recognizes over 20 types of doctorate degrees. To make matters more complex, PhDs can be obtained in many different subjects, ranging from anthropology to management to social welfare. And the people that have earned them can legitimately call themselves “doctor”. Too often (at least in Miami), some mental health providers licensed at the master’s level (LMHC, LCSW, or LMFT) call themselves ‘doctor’ while their doctorate is out-of-field. To make the best decision for yourself, be an informed consumer. Ask the professional you’re thinking about working with two things:
- What level are you licensed at (Masters or Doctoral) by the state regulatory board?
- What is your doctorate in?
I hope you have a better idea of the type of therapists there, and which one you need. Feel free to give me a call at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Call if you’re looking for a therapist near Brickell, Coral Gables, South Miami, Pinecrest, or Doral. I’d be happy to hear about what’s happening and help direct you to the right professional. (I’m a Licensed Psychologist (Psy.D.), by the way. Click here to learn more about me.)