What Do All of Those Letters Mean? How to Find a Therapist
Finding a therapist can be difficult. It is a deeply personal experience. You want someone who is qualified to work with the issues you are concerned about, and you also want to be able to build a lasting and trusting relationship with your therapist. So, how do you decipher all of the different kinds of therapists out there based on the alphabet soup of letters following their name? Let's do this!
MA/MS - Master of Arts/Master of Science. This person has a master's degree in a counseling related field. Sometimes Community Counseling, Clinical Counseling - the specific names vary, but a master's degree that included a lot of classes about how to provide counseling, a practicum and an internship.
LPC - Licensed Professional Counselor, Counselor/Therapist. In addition to having a master's degree, this type of clinician has also passed a board exam approved by their state, and has met the experience and supervision requirements set forth by their state. In Colorado, a LPC must complete 2000 hours of counseling work experience and must have received a minimum of 100 hours of supervision. This cannot be completed in less than 2 years. A LPC cannot prescribe medication, but will often refer to and work in conjunction with providers who can. (In Colorado, a LPCC is a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate)
LMFT - Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Counselor/Therapist. Very similar to the requirements for a LPC. This clinician's master's degree has more of a focus on marriage and family counseling. A LMFT also cannot prescribe medication, but will often refer to and work in conjunction with providers who can.
PsyD or PhD - Doctorate of Psychology/Doctorate of Philosophy, Psychologist. This clinician has completed a doctorate program in the field of psychology and has passed a board exam, in addition to the requirements of a MA/MS degree. They will have the title of Dr. in front of their name. Psychologists typically have more training in administering evaluations and other testing. A psychologist cannot prescribe medication. .
Psychiatrist - Medical Doctor. A psychiatrist is a clinician that has attended medical school. They definitely have the title of Dr. in front of their name. If they are practicing psychiatry exclusively, they should be board certified in psychiatry. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication as well as offer talk therapy.
There are many other specialties that therapists can earn that will allow them to have additional titles after their names. I am a RPT, which stands for Registered Play Therapist. Another common title is CAC (I, II, III), which is a Certified Addictions Counselor. There are many more. All of these require additional training, verification of experience and supervision. So there you have it, in a nutshell. Good luck on your therapist search, and remember that therapists typically know a lot of other therapists - if you're not sure what you need just call one of us. If we can't help we will direct you to one of our many colleagues that specializes in the type of treatment you are looking for.