Success depends upon previous preparation . . . – Confucious
I FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT FINDING THE RIGHT COUNSELOR IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE COUNSELING PROCESS. OVER THE YEARS I HAVE HEARD A LONG LIST OF NEGATIVE EXPERIENCES PEOPLE HAVE HAD WITH OTHER COUNSELORS AS WELL AS SOME GENERAL MISCONCEPTIONS PEOPLE OFTEN HAVE ABOUT WHAT TO EXPECT FROM COUNSELING, COACHING, AND RELATED SERVICES. WITH THAT IN MIND I THOUGHT IT MIGHT BE BENEFICIAL TO SHARE SOME INSIGHT FROM SOMEONE IN THE FIELD TO HELP YOU FIND THE BEST PROFESSIONAL FOR YOUR NEEDS.
ALPHABET SOUP . . . WHICH ONE DO I WANT? When you do an internet search for a counselor or therapist in your area you will probably see many if not all of the acronyms listed below. Here is a quick run down of what each of these mental health professionals typically provide.
LMHC – LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELOR (AKA LPC OR LICENSED PROFESSIONAL COUNSELOR IN SOME STATES): talk therapy for individuals, couples, or families. These professionals are qualified to help with a variety of concerns, but often limit their practice to a few main specialties such as couples, depression, addictions, etc.
LMFT – LICENSED MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST: talk therapy for couples and/or families. While this group is usually focused on couples and/or families they sometimes offer even more narrow fields of specialty such as premarital classes, parenting, blended families, etc.
LCSW – Licensed Clinical Social Worker: counseling often with a slant toward connecting the client with social services or community organizations. While some do private practice counseling, most work in agencies, hospitals, or other in/out patient settings.
Ph. D. or Psy. D. – Psychologist: A few provide talk therapy, but most provide testing and assessment such as ADHD, drug/alcohol evaluation, personality inventories, etc.
M.D. – Psychiatrist: Can provide talk therapy, but rarely do so. More often psychiatrists do rapid assessment/diagnosis and prescriptions. These are generally the only professionals in the mental health field that prescribe drugs. If an LMHC diagnosis a client with depression or a Psy. D. finds a patient has ADHD the patient could then go to the psychiatrist if they wanted to add drug therapy to their treatment.
i – A lower case “i” following an acronym usually indicates the person is an intern. This means they have completed their education and have earned the degree, but have not finished the required clinical hours and/or passed the exam to gain a state license in their feild. Interns can still see clients while under the supervision of a licensed professional.
Note: LMHC’s and LMFT’s are nearly interchangeable. Both of these tracks were offered in my Master’s program and the difference that separated the two was exactly one (1) course. In fact, my degree is in Marriage and Family Therapy, but I am licensed as a mental health counslor because I completed the additional course to meet both requirements. As the difference between the two is so small I would recommend that if your needs seem to fit best with either of these two types of counselor that you should also consider the other in your search. It is possible that either of these two may specialize in your area of need.
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