New York City
Marriage & Family Therapist
Substance Abuse Counselor
TYPES OF THERAPISTS
People seek therapy for many varied reasons. They may be suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, depression, or may merely decide that they are no longer satisfied with some aspect of their life or relationships and recognize that there are trained experts who can help them "sort things out". Understanding the difference between various types of therapists may help those seeking therapy to find a therapist for their particular needs.
There are different types of professionals licensed to treat psychological and emotional difficulties, including: psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, clinical social workers, professional counselors, and marriage & family therapists.
The term “psychotherapist” is not a term that implies licensure, but is simply anyone who practices psychotherapy. Since even an unlicensed person can call themselves a psychotherapist, make certain that the therapist is licensed in one of the disciplines above.
Trying to decide which licensed professional is best for your particular problem can be confusing. We will attempt to explain the differences in training, experience and expertise below.
A Psychologist has usually received a doctorate from a 4-5 year program after the Bachelor’s degree dealing with the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of psychological, psychiatric, neuropsychological or educational disorders. Their doctoral degree in psychology can be a PhD, PsyD or EdD. Additionally, in most states, the psychologist must complete at least 2 years of supervised experience beyond the required coursework and has to pass both a State oral licensing exam and a national written licensing exam before being licensed. Psychologists receive intensive training throughout their graduate program in psychotherapy, counseling, evaluation and diagnosis of psychological-psychiatric disorders. Evaluations are conducted by the use of clinical interviewing and psychological testing.
A Psychiatrist is a physician (MD or DO) who specializes in the field of psychiatry. After completing medical school in general medicine (not specifically in psychiatry), the psychiatrist usually completes a 3 year residency in hospital psychiatry. They may, or may not, be Board Certified. Psychiatrists are best trained to treat severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia and severe depression, with medication, sometimes hospitalization, and in some severe cases, ECT. While some psychiatrists practice psychotherapy, most primarily do medical evaluations, diagnosis, prescribe medication, and then do brief medication follow-up visits. Psychotherapy for these patients is usually conducted by the mental health providers of other disciplines such as psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, social workers, professional counselors, and marriage & family therapists. Psychiatrist’s fees are generally much higher than those of other mental health professionals.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
A Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner is a registered nurse, who has a BSN (Bachelors of Science in Nursing) and advanced training at the Master’s level in psychotherapy, diagnosis, evaluation and medication management. Extensive training, supervision and experience is required in both hospital and outpatient settings. Nurse practitioners, in many states (such as New Jersey), must pass a national ANCC certification exam, in either adult or family (adult, adolescent, child, and geriatric) mental health/psychiatry before becoming licensed and can practice independently using both psychotherapy and prescriptive medication. They provide a well-trained (and usually lower cost) alternative to psychiatrists, especially for those patients for whom medication alone, or medication and therapy together, may be indicated.
Dually Licensed Psychologist & Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
practice includes several professionals who are licensed both as
Psychologists and Nurse Practitioners. These professionals offer both
doctoral level expertise in adult and child psychotherapy and marriage
counseling, along with prescriptive practice in psychiatric medication.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), completes a Masters degree (MA) in social work, supervised experience, and passes a national licensing exam. LCSWs provide psychotherapy, marriage and couples counseling.
Licensed Professional Counselor
A Licensed Professional Counselor completes a Masters degree (MA) in a mental health field such as counseling or psychology and completes a number of supervised hours in counseling and psychotherapy, before taking an exam for licensure.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
A Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) completes at least a Masters degree (MA) in counseling or other behavioral science, a certain number of hours of supervised experience, and passes an exam. The training they receive is almost entirely in couples psychotherapy and relationship theory. Most psychologists and clinical social workers are also trained to do marriage and family counseling and therapy and do not seek this specific licensure, since they are already trained and licensed to practice in this area by virtue of their psychologist or clinical social work license.
Substance Abuse Counselor
A Substance Abuse Counselor is not licensed or certified to practice independently but is able to practice in a drug or alcohol facility. Nevertheless, many do have a private practice. Since they are not licensed to practice, their services are usually not reimbursed by insurance companies. Their training includes courses in addiction and some supervised experienced. There is usually a Bachelor’s degree requirement. Many psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and counselors have training and experience in treating substance abuse and do not seek this specific licensure, since they are already trained and licensed to practice in this area by virtue of their other license and training. If you are seeing someone who says he or she is a substance abuse counselor, check to see that they have an additional professional license to practice independently.
For more information about types of therapists or other issues call our offices to speak to a therapist.
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