Posted on December 7, 2015 by Amy Rosechandler

image - Difference Between LMHC, LMFT, LCSW, Psychologist, Psychiatrist

If you are wondering what the letters after a mental health care provider’s name mean, you are not alone.

If you are new to therapy, you might notice that providers have different credentials. Since mental health care is available in the Rochester NY community through different kinds of providers, a good first step is to do your research to find a provider who will address your specific needs, with whom you feel comfortable, and who will be financially affordable.

The letters following a therapist's name will indicate any specialized training the therapist has received, and identify their licensing and degree. The credentialing a therapist has will also determine their ability to receive insurance reimbursement for their services.

Some credentials therapists may have, for example:

  • Ed.D: Doctor of Education
  • LCAT: Licensed Creative Arts Therapist
  • LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
  • LMHC: Licensed Mental Health Counselor
  • LMSW, LCSW, or LCSW-R: Licensed Master Social Worker, Clinical Social Worker, or Licensed Master Clinical Social Worker “R”
  • Licensed Psychologist/Ph.D or Psy.D: Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Psychology
  • Psychiatrist: Medical doctor with additional training and specialization in mental health
  • NPP-C: Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  • PMHNP: Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Private therapists may have different credentials, but must be licensed to provide mental health treatment in New York State in order to be lawfully and ethically practicing providers. Your provider will verify that they are actively licensed by showing the “L” with their credential, and likely displaying their license at their work site.

As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), I have specialized training in community mental health counseling. My coursework and internship training focused on clinical diagnosis, treatment planning and the delivery of mental health care with individuals and groups. My program also emphasized social justice, working within diverse community systems and the counselor’s role as an advocate.

As an LMHC, my understanding of other licensed professionals is mostly from working alongside my colleagues and friends with Ph.D’s, LCAT’s, LMSW’s and LMFT’s. I can tell you that the experience and special knowledge of each of these professionals can depend on their own personal skill set, clinical experience and interests. For example, LMFT’s, or Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists have specialized training and experience working with families and couples. That being said, one of the most experienced family therapists I know holds an LCAT.

And what about medications?
A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has received additional training to specialize in the treatment of mental health problems. Psychiatrists primarily assess for, consult about and prescribe psychiatric medications. A psychiatrist will carry credentials DO or MD and will have New York State Licensure to be a practicing psychiatrist in the state.

Nurse Practitioners and Psychiatric Nurses may also specialize in treatment of psychiatric problems and can prescribe psychiatric medications under the supervision of a psychiatrist. A psychiatric nurse Practitioner will carry credentials NPP-C or PMHNP.

Private prescribers, (NPP-C and Psychiatrists) can be found by contacting your insurance company to find those that may be covered. Be aware that some prescribers offer psychotherapy alongside medications and some offer medication-only treatment.

You can verify whether a provider is licensed in New York State and learn more about these professions by going to the New York State Office of Professions Website:

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