What is the difference between a psychotherapist, therapist, and a counselor?
The terms “psychotherapist,” “therapist,” and “counselor” are labels that often refer to mental health clinicians who work with clients in a therapeutic setting. However, these are not technical terms and are not regulated by any governing board or agency. They do not refer to the type of degree or license that the clinician has obtained. There are many types of mental health practitioners with a variety of degrees and licenses. It is important to be aware of a clinician’s experience and background when seeking a counselor.
What is the difference between a licensed professional counselor (LPC), licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), and licensed psychologist?
The types of training and licensure of therapists can vary extensively. Some practitioners have completed a master’s degree while some have obtained a doctorate degree in a psychology-related field.
A clinician who is licensed as a professional counselor (LPC) has completed a master’s degree in counseling and is able to provide psychotherapy to a wide array of clients. The main focus of their training is to utilize a combination of mental health and human development principles to help clients alleviate distress. Licensed professional counselors are able to conduct some psychological evaluations but are somewhat limited in the types of assessments they can provide.
Similar to licensed professional counselors, marriage and family therapists (LMFT) also have obtained a master’s degree. They are trained to use various psychotherapeutic approaches to work with clients with marital and family difficulties. Licensed marriage and family therapists, however, do not provide psychological evaluations.
Mental health practitioners who are licensed as clinical social workers (LCSW) have also completed a master’s degree and are trained to work with clients in psychotherapy. These clinicians also specialize in working with government and social service agencies to provide mental health and living assistance to their clients. Clinical social workers are also unable to provide psychological evaluations to clients.
Licensed psychologists have earned either a doctorate in philosophy (Ph.D.) or a doctorate in psychology (Psy.D.). Psychologists typically receive extensive training in research methodologies and scientific approaches to understanding human behavior, psychological assessment, and psychotherapeutic treatment. Psychologists spend approximately five to six years in graduate school which includes at least three years of academic study, two years of writing a dissertation, one year of a supervised clinical internship. Prior to becoming fully licensed, psychologists must also pass comprehensive written and oral exams not only from their graduate program but also from the state licensing board. They must also complete an additional year of supervised post-doctoral clinical training. Once licensed, psychologists are able to independently provide psychotherapy, consultation, psychological evaluations, and conduct research in their field of study. Psychologists are trained to work with clients in psychotherapy, offering well-rounded therapeutic approaches to help alleviate suffering while relying on their knowledge of psychological research and assessment.
What is a doctoral psychology intern?
Clinical internship is one of the last steps in the process of becoming licensed as a psychologist. Doctoral psychology interns have usually already gained a great deal of experience as clinicians in the field. Most individuals who pursue a doctorate degree in psychology have previously completed a master’s degree which includes at least two years of education and clinical experience. Doctoral programs in psychology usually entail another five to six years of training. Therefore, by the time an individual becomes a psychology intern, he or she will have many years of education and clinical training. Similar to residency in physician training programs, during the internship year, the intern will see clients in therapy under the supervision of other psychologists. At the completion of their clinical internship, doctoral psychology interns are eligible to obtain their doctorate and become licensed as a practitioner.
What is a post-doctoral intern?
Post-doctoral internship is the very last step in the process of becoming fully licensed as a psychologist. Practitioners who are completing their post-doctoral internship have already obtained their doctorate in a psychology-related field and have completed at least two years of supervised experience including practicum work and a pre-doctoral internship. By the time a practitioner reaches this final internship year, he or she has gained extensive training and education in their field. This final internship is required by the state licensing board and consists of one year of continued supervised clinical experience. At the completion of this year, post-doctoral interns, who have also passed the state board written and oral exams, may become licensed to practice independently as psychologists.