Choosing a therapist is a challenging and important task. It can be confusing to determine which type of provider is best for you and your unique situation. As a starting point, many find it useful to learn about the various types of professionals who are able to provide therapeutic services for the treatment of mental health concerns. A number of the more common types of mental health professionals are noted below:
- Psychologist (PhD or PsyD) – There are several different types of psychologists, all of which are required to complete an advanced graduate program in psychology to earn either a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) or PsyD (Doctor of Psychology). The PhD in psychology is a research degree which focuses on the scientific study of human behavior, while the PsyD focuses on clinical practice. To earn either a PhD or PsyD in psychology, one must complete an undergraduate degree and then complete a four to seven year doctoral program. Prior to practicing as a licensed, clinical psychologist, both PhD and PsyD level practitioners must complete a supervised internship program in which they hone their clinical skills. Once licensed, practicing psychologists are qualified to diagnose and treat a variety of mental health concerns, and to administer and interpret psychological tests.
Search the Recovered Lives Therapist Directory to find a psychologist in your area.
- Psychiatrist (MD or DO) – A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. Like other medical doctors, a psychiatrist has completed an undergraduate course of study and has also completed an additional four years of medical school. After graduating from medical school, one pursuing a career in psychiatry completes a four year residency program. During the residency, a psychiatrist gains in-depth, practical experience in the diagnosis and treatment of a range of mental health concerns. In addition to providing talk-based therapeutic services, as a medical doctor a psychiatrist is also able to prescribe medication.
Additional Information: American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
Search the Recovered Lives Therapist Directory to find a psychiatrist in your area.
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – LCSW-level therapists have completed an undergraduate degree as well as a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. The MSW is a two-year graduate program which combines coursework with practical, internship experience. After graduating from a MSW program, one must complete a two to three year supervised internship program and must also pass a state licensing exam prior to practicing as a licensed clinical social worker. Although the number of supervised internship hours required varies by state, the purpose of the internship is to prepare the practitioner for clinical practice, including the treatment of mental and emotional issues.
Additional Information: National Association of Social Workers
Search the Recovered Lives Therapist Directory to find a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in your area.
- Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) – A marriage and family therapist is a mental health professional who has completed a bachelor’s degree and two or more years of graduate education. In addition to earning at least a master’s degree, marriage and family therapists also have at least two years of supervised, clinical training prior to practicing as independent therapists with the knowledge and skills required to treat mental health and emotional illnesses. Often, marriage and family therapists approach the treatment of emotional difficulties from a perspective which acknowledges the individual in a family or relationship-based context.
Additional Information: American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
Search the Recovered Lives Therapist Directory to find a Marriage and Family Therapist in your area.
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) - Sometimes referred to as licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs), these professionals are trained to provide therapy for the treatment of mental illnesses and emotional disorders. Although the requirements vary state-by-state, licensed professional counselors generally must have completed an undergraduate degree as well as at least a master’s level program in counseling or a related field. Additionally, licensed professional counselors are required to complete a number of hours of supervised internship experience prior to qualifying for their state’s licensing exam
Additional Information: American Counseling Association
Search the Recovered Lives Therapist Directory to find a Licensed Professional Counselor in your area.
A number of practicing therapists have other credentials or licenses, either alone or in combination with the above. Examples include, but are not limited to, licenses to practice as a CRC (Credentialed Rehabilitation Counselor), LCAT (Licensed Creative Arts Therapist), or CASAC (Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor). Several of these professional designations vary by state. Please see Psychology Today’s Therapy Center for more comprehensive information on the various credentials and licenses for which providers of therapy services may be eligible.
In addition to understanding the training and credentials various types of mental health professionals possess, it is also critically important to understand that there are several different types of therapy. Please see our page detailing these various types of therapies for additional information.