What are the different types of therapists?

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In your search for a therapist, you may see a number of abbreviations and you may not know what they all mean: LCSW, LPC, LMFT, NCC, PsyD, PhD, M.D. There are various types of therapists with different types of degrees, licenses, specializations, approaches, and certifications. 

Here are the most popular certifications that you should know:

  • LCSW – Licensed Clinical Social Worker. An LCSW holds a master’s degree in social work and has completed two years of supervised clinical social work services. Social workers can address mental health issues as well as provide services to help you manage your therapy process and connect with other resources in your community. LCSWs often look to someone’s community connections and resources to explain the symptoms someone is experiencing.
  • LPC – Licensed Professional Counselor. An LPC has a master’s degree in counseling or a counseling-related field and has also completed the required amount of supervised counseling work. LPCs often look to the individual and their development to explain symptoms someone is experiencing. 
  • LMFT – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. An LMFT holds a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy or related degree and has completed their required supervised therapy work. LMFTs often look to a person’s relationships to explain symptoms someone is experiencing.
  • NCC – National Certified Counselor. A therapist with an NCC designation has a master’s degree in counseling and is board certified on a national level.
  • PhD – A doctorate of philosophy in psychology, with an emphasis in research. A therapist with a PhD in psychology is called a psychologist. They are trained as both scientists and clinicians. Psychologists can test for and diagnosis most mental health disorders.
  • PsyD – A doctorate in psychology, with an emphasis in clinical work. Therapists with PsyDs are also psychologists, but because their degree focuses on clinical services, you’ll see them work with clients more often than therapists with PhDs. Like PhDs, PsyDs can also test for and diagnosis most mental health disorders.
  • M.D. – Medical Doctor. For therapy, you’ll see a psychiatrist, a medical doctor who specializes in treating mental health issues and disorders. Psychiatrists can prescribe and manage medication. Only a few psychiatrists provide traditional talk therapy in addition to medication management.