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Explaining Various Credentials

One of the more common confusions in this process is not knowing what the letters stand for after a therapist's name. It doesn't help that there seem to be about as many credentials as professionals. Let me unravel this for you: ​


  • Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Master's degree. An LCSW advocates for social change and tries to connect clients to social programs. A Licensed Social Worker (LSW) is someone who has graduated and is on their way to completing the requisite clinical hours. Clinical just means therapeutic work with clients. 

  • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Master's degree. An LPC focuses on helping the individual utilize his or her strengths to navigate life issues. A National Certified Counselor (NCC) is someone who has graduated and passed a national exam, and is on their way to accruing the necessary clinical hours for licensure.

  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). Master's degree. LMFTs typically sees couples and families. They operate from a systems perspective that views all individuals within a larger context (e.g., a family).  

  • Psychologist, Ph.D. Doctoral degree. The training is partially focused on research and partially focused on clinical skills.

  • Psychologist, Psy.D. Doctoral degree. The training is primarily focused on clinical skills, not so much on research.

I find that most people do not care that much about the degree of their therapist. The most important thing is usually how comfortable you are talking to the other person. Many factors go into this. I encourage you to imagine talking to the person as you encounter their text, images, and videos. Some practitioners will also offer a free phone or in-person consultation.

What Do All The Letters Mean?: About Me
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