Understanding the Difference Between Mental Health Professionals

Relief has built a database of thousands of mental health professionals available to support and treat those individuals suffering from a mental health challenge. And because there are a variety of mental health diagnoses, each person benefits from a different type of professional. Here, we differentiate between the many professionals available so that you, together with the Relief referral specialist, can connect with the best fit. Remember, it may take some time to find the professional best suited to support you and that does not mean the professional – or type of therapy – is faulty. Patience is critical when managing a mental health challenge.

***please note that the below terms are relevant for the US. In other countries, terms and licensing may differ. For questions, please reach out to your local Relief office.***
– A psychiatrist is a medicaldoctorwithspecialtraininginthediagnosisandtreatmentofmentalandemotional disorders. As medical doctors, they arequalifiedtoprescribemedication. MostpsychiatristsONLYprescribemedicationsanddonotprovidepsychotherapy. Patients often benefit from the combination of psychotherapy and medication. It is therefore common to have bothatherapistandapsychiatrist. A child and adolescent psychiatrist specializesinthetreatmentofchildrenandadolescents.
– Clinical psychologists are trained in the practice of psychological assessments, diagnosis of mental illness and individual or group psychotherapy. Psychologists have adoctoraldegreeinpsychologyfromanaccrediteddoctoralprogram. To receive a license, a psychologist must have extended supervisedprofessionalexperience,includinga clinical internship.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
– An LCSW provides individual or group psychotherapy and mental health diagnoses, working with clients and their families on the road to mental and emotional well-being. A social worker is also trained in crisis intervention and can connect people with the resources they need to improve their health. An LCSW must have a master’s degree in social work from an accredited graduate program. In order to receive a license, an LCSW must have 2000 to 3000 hours of supervised work experience. Different states have different names for an equivalent license. For example, Certified Master Social Work (CMSW), Licensed Social Worker (LSW), Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW), Licensed Certified Social Worker – Clinical (LCSW-C) are all social workers with a license.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
– An LPC provides individual or group psychotherapy and mental health diagnoses and works with clients and their families to help deal with issues involving their mental and emotional health. A LPC’s training is solely focused on counseling (unlike a social worker). An LPC must have a master’s degree in psychology, counseling or a related field such as marriage and family therapy. Like a LCSW, a licensed LPC must have 2000- 3000 hours of supervised work experience. In some states, a professional counselor is called a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) or a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC).
– An LMFT is similar to an LPC in that the training is focused solely on counseling, except that an LMFT is specifically trained to treat behaviors in its social and relational context.
CertifiedAlcoholandDrugAbuseCounselor (CADC)
– A CADC is a counselorwithspecificclinicaltraininginalcoholanddrugabuse, trainedtodiagnoseandprovideindividualandgroupcounseling. Professional Counselor (LCPC).
– A Psychiatric Nurse is a Registered Nurse (RN) whoseeks additionaleducation in the field of mental health disorders. Theyprovidethefullrangeofpsychiatriccareservicestoindividuals and groups,functionaspsychotherapists,andinmoststatestheyhavetheauthoritytoprescribemedicatio ns. A Psychiatric Nurse is a type of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) and therefore requires post-graduate education with a focus on psychiatric disorders.