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What are the true differences between licensed therapists or counselors, such as; LMFT, LCSW, LCP?

I have recently done some research on this topic since it is where I would like my educational plans to go towards.

clinical-psychology psychology lmft lcp lcsw therapy family-therapy counseling mental-health mental-health-counseling mental-health-support

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Linda Ann’s Answer

Here's an addition to what has already been noted by the other responses to your question:

The differences lie in the credentialing (licensing - different licensing boards) and where within an institution the required curriculum will be found. For the LPC credential, for example, you could take coursework in a psychology department (masters level program) and then additional coursework (which is typically needed) in a graduate education department... For the LCSW, coursework would be taken in the Department of Social Work.

Not every school offers coursework for each of the credentials that you have mentioned. Licensing also varies by state (while for the LPC credential, there is a national licensing examination; the requirements that need to be met both before and after that licensing examination varies by state!). Note every state will reciprocate with licensing unlike driver's licenses...

Each institution and department will have different entrance requirements for their graduate programs. Those entrance requirements would generally involve specific coursework at the undergraduate level and GRE scores.
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Nancy’s Answer

Hi, Danielle. I agree with Ray above. One point is that marriage and family therapists may not have the clinical background to be expert enough on mental illness to have their services paid for by insurance in some states. They may work on a fee for service basis, as a mental health diagnosis is not always appropriate in their specialty. Laws vary among states quite a bit. Some states have master's level psychologist licensure, and some do not. There will be different focuses in educational philosophy among each type of program, as well. Social workers may learn more about connecting clients to community supports. Counselors tend to study much about the counseling relationship, strategies and modalities, such as group, family and individual counseling, while psychologists may focus on one or a few psychological theories of behavior and how to apply them, such as behavioral interventions or humanistic strategies.
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Dr. Ray’s Answer

Dear Danielle,

Since I am a psychologist my knowledge of the other licenses is limited but here is what I know:
LMFT stands for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
LCSW stands for Licensed Clinical Social Worker
LPC stands for Licensed Professional Counselor
There are minor differences in how these people are educated but all of them require a master's degree and several (usually two) years of supervised experience in order to practice independently. In Texas, where Iive, the legislature has tried to combine all these professions' licensing boards into one,as they do much the same type of work, but the effort was not successful this year. Being licensed as a psychologist requires a Ph.D. degree and two years of supervised experience, so it is a more difficult route to follow. All of these professionals engage in psychotherapy and counseling, but only psychologists can perform psychological testing. They also tend to earn more than professionals with only a master's degree.

I hope this helps you sort out your career goals and decide on a path. Good luck in your career pursuits.

Ray Finn, Ph.D.