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Choosing The Right
Mental Health Professional

A mental health professional is, in very general terms, a licensed or accredited individual that offers services (counseling, therapy etc.) to treat mental illness or for the purpose of improving a persons wellbeing. The issues that mental health professionals deal with tend to be the same but their specialties and scope of practice will differ as will their education level and training. Scope of practice refers to the level of competency in a specific area achieved by a professional both through education, licensing and experience.

A therapist is defined as an individual trained in the use of physical therapy exercises or treatments to treat or rehabilitate patients. Or as a person trained in the use of psychological techniques for assisting individuals in overcoming coming psychological or relationship problems or enhancing personal growth. Therapists, psychologists and counselors have a wide range of different credentials and licenses. Here are a few you may come across:

Mental Health Professionals

* Psychiatrist MD or DO
* Clinical Psychologist PhD or PsyD
* School Psychologist EdD or EdS
* Psychotherapist Doctorate level PhD
* Psychotherapist Masters level MFT,
* Occupational Therapist BOT or PhD
* Clinical Social Worker MA, MSW, or PhD
* Psychiatric & Mental Health Nurse MSN, DNP
* Art Therapist MA, ART or MT-BC
* Certified Mental Health Professional CMHP

List of Degrees and Professional Licenses

* MA or MS Master’s degree in child development or family systems.
* MSW Master of Social Work
* DSW Doctor of Social Work
* PsyD Doctor of Psychology
* PhD Doctor of Philosophy
* LCSW Licensed Clinical Social Worker
* CSW Clinical Social Worker
* LMFT or MFT Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
* MFCC Marriage, Family and Child Counselor (outdated term for MFT)
* LPC Licensed Professional Counselor
* CFLE Certified Family Life Educators
* MHN Psychiatric mental health nursing
* BCD Board Certified Diplomat

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) vs. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Many psychologists, therapists, and counselors hold a PhD. Unlike a PsyD, a PhD is a Doctor of philosophy. A PsyD is a doctor of psychology. A PhD tends to focus on theory, statistics and data gathering which may lead to research careers. The PsyD focuses on psychotherapy and counseling above research. Both require a dissertation.

Marriage & Family Therapists (MFT) vs. Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)

MFTs have a graduate degree in psychology, perform clinical work experience and must pass a state-certified license exam. LCSWs also have a graduate degree, field training and must pass a state certified exam. Social workers tend to work within the broader context of community mental health dealing with drug abuse, domestic violence, child abuse and foster care. MFTs are relationship experts and work with individuals and families. Their focus is the individual not social policy as much as LCSWs.

Addiction Professionals

* Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors CADC
* Certified Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselor CADAC
* California Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors CAADAC I and II
* National Certified Addiction Counselor Credential I and II NAADAC
* Certified Addiction Counselor CAC I and II
* Substance Abuse Professional SAP
* Chemical Dependency Licensure CAD
* Drug and Alcohol Counselor DAC
* National Certified Counselor NCC
* National Certified School Counselor NCSC
* Certified Mental Health Counselor CCMHC
* Masters Addictions Counselor MAC

Addiction Organizations

* American Medical Association
* American Psychiatric Association
* American Society of Addiction Medicine
* American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry
* The National Association for Addiction Professionals
* The American Medical Association
* The National Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
* The Addiction Research Center
* The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
* CODAC Behavioral Healthcare
* American Society of Addiction Medicine
* Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse
* Academy of Certified Social Workers
* National Board of Certified Counselors

Some therapists and counselors do not have formal training, and their services may not be covered by health insurance. Not all states require therapists to hold a license.

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