“Psychotherapist” is an umbrella title that includes professionals with several different types of license, academic training, and scope of practice. All psychotherapists use psychological methods to treat a variety of mental, emotional, and social needs. Depending on the specific practitioner, they may treat individuals, couples, families, or in group settings.
Each profession has its own requirements for academic internships, supervised post-graduate work experience, national examination, and continuing education. The most important question to ask yourself:
“Is this the person best equipped to help me with what I need to work on right now?”
Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) hold a Master of Social Work. Social Work is an interdisciplinary field that draws from areas including psychology, sociology, and political science. It is concerned with individual and personal problems, as well as with broader social issues such as poverty and public health. The practice of social work requires knowledge of human development and behavior; of social, economic, and cultural institutions; and the interaction of all these factors.
Psychiatrists are physicians — either Medical Doctors (MDs) or Doctors of Osteopathy (DOs). They mainly prescribe and manage psychiatric medications, such as antidepressants. (Note: Some primary care doctors will also prescribe certain psychiatric medications.) Some psychiatrists practice psychotherapy in addition to medication management.
Psychologists hold nonmedical doctorates, such as PhDs or PsyDs, in one of several branches of psychology. In addition to psychotherapy, their scope includes administering and interpreting standardized psychological tests. People are often referred specifically to psychologists when a diagnostic report is required by a school, court, or government entity.
Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) have similar scopes of practice and licensure requirements to LCSWs. Most LPCs graduate from a masters program focused on counseling or applied psychology, while LMFTs hold masters degrees related to marriage and/or family therapy.