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Short and Sweet Decoding: Why Your Mental Health Therapist Credentials Are Important

Let’s say you are wondering about those abbreviations with your therapist's name. These letters are important. But why? Because they show what type of education, certification, and license are under their belt. Let's explore this a bit more and provide some information about what some of the letters mean.

Mental Health Medical Doctors and Psychologists

Psychiatrist- Absolutely has to have MD after their name. When they treat outpatients they also prescribe medication. While another psychologist handles the mental health therapy. MDs' expectations are to complete a psychiatrist residency with a board-certified psychiatrist.

Psychologists- A psychologist attended a higher learning intuition to study mental health matters. The least is an advanced-level degree. Their training includes Ph.D., PsyD, or EdD program in psychology. Their degree typically includes clinical field experience and dissertations. PHDs are often science trained but some provide private practice. They have knowledge of psychological research and apply analytical techniques. They work in academics or write research papers. These doctors have an area of expertise or specialty. A bonus is these doctors may also treat PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

Additionally, a psychologist has accomplished master’s level. MA is usually in their title. So they compelled a master's degree program in psychology, counseling, mental health counseling. If there's an L with the name it means they passed state board exams. They are the best at diagnosis and using many therapeutic ideas. They can’t write prescriptions, yet they consult with a psychiatrist for medication.

Social Worker- it's a given that you will see SW attached to their name. They have also received at least a Master’s in clinical social work. They are qualified to diagnose or counsel.

Licensed Therapists and Counselors

All Master's level provider undergo rigorous education, training and supervision as they move through the various stages of training. In order to obtain a master's degree, professionals must first complete a bachelor's degree. Typically this is a 4 year degree, but may vary based on local, opportunity and how many courses people can take.

All direct practice master's degree programs have a component of supervised direct practice. This means the counselors, social workers, marriage and family therapists work with members of the community either in a school setting, a nonprofit in the community, a hospital or treatment center or in a private practice. They usually do one year of an internship where they are supervised by an independently licensed masters level provider at their internship site.

Social workers with a master's degree will have MSW after their name. MSWs often work in a hospital, government, or nonprofit setting.

Independently licensed social workers often have LCSW after their name. This means they can practice independently (they don't need a clinical supervisor and have been deemed qualified to work independently).

The MSW and LCSW's can work with mental health clients in private practice. They have completed a set number of hours of supervised clinical experience. They help patients with their issues. They tap into one’s family background and social environment.

(MA, MFT) Masters degree, Marriage and Family therapy program. MFT's treat families and couples and individuals for a variety of mental health concerns.

CAC - a certified addiction counselor has a school to bachelor’s level of training. There is some additional knowledge in the dynamics of addictions.

MS means they have a master of Science.

MC means they have a masters degree in Counseling. Many present day MC programs have a strong focus on multicultural counseling across the lifespan. They learn strategies, intervention and build relationships with clients to promote the health of individuals, families, groups and organizations in a diverse society.

PC, LCPC, LPCC, LMHC- All licensed independent professionals. They reflect a Master achievement and can practice independently. This means they have completed the coursework and internship for their master's degree and have met a state minimum of direct practice under the supervision of another independently licensed provider (for most states it is two years of full time direct practice).

LAC- a master's level counselor who is licensed to practice under the supervision of an independently licensed mental health professional (usually another LPC, LCSW or Psychologist).

NCC- is a clear-cut nationwide professional certification for professional counselors. The certification requires verification of testing & continuing education in addition to their licensure requirements.

CAASC has a masters degree and the required hours for alcohol and drug counseling training.

Pastoral Counseling( MA ) he/she chose Pastoral Counseling or Pastoral Therapy. Their studies consisted of courses in therapeutic methods and clinical counseling skills. These programs distinguish a pastoral counselor from the priest, pastor, or clergy. these doctors work in a hospital/hospice, ministries, individual practice, college, or universities. psychotherapy practitioner who should have formal training. you can check your state’s database. Some individuals call themselves a “life coach” or therapist.

TRSAZ clinical staff in Arizona have professional credentials!

All of our direct practice staff (counselors & social workers) have a master's degree and are licensed in their respective discipline. Many have additional certifications and have specialities they are working on and demonstrate an interest in. We also have interns that come from several master's programs in the area such as ASU School of Social Work, Grand Canyon University, etc.

We hope this post gave you some insight & has cracked the code. It helps to know what you're looking for when you are looking for a therapist or counselor.

You’ve come to the right place. We're waiting so contact us today to get started.

++TRSAZ is a female Native American/Indigenous (Diné/Navajo) owned private practice.++


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