What all the letters mean
The first group of letters is the type of education the therapist has
- MA – Master of Arts (in Counseling, Rehabilitation Studies, etc…)
- MEd – Masters of Education – (in Counseling…)
- MS – Masters of Science – (in Counseling…)
- MSSW – Masters of Science in Social Work
- MMFT – Masters of Marriage and Family Therapy
- PhD – Doctor of Philosophy
The second group of letters, is the Texas license the the therapist holds. Some therapists have more than one.
- LCSW – Licensed Clinical Social Worker
- LPC – Licensed Professional Counselor
- LCDC – Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor
- LMFT – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
- Psychologist – this group of letters actually spells something.
Some therapists also have additional certifications.
- NCC – National Certified Counselor
After a therapist completes their education, they must counsel under the supervision of a licensed therapist for three years or 3,000 client contact hours (varies with each license), and take a clinical exam before being fully licensed. Until those two things are accomplished, they are called license interns or associates or some other modified title.
Maybe not. Let’s look at each group of letters, and help you decide.
A Master’s degree is required for either the LPC, LCSW, or LMFT licenses. A PhD is required to be licensed as a psychologist. So you know a therapist with a Master’s degree studied an additional 2 or 3 years (varies with degree) beyond their four year college degree and the Psychologist studied for another couple of years.
A therapist’s education might tell you what sort of theoretical background they were trained under. But, actually, two different schools of social work may emphasize two different theoretical perspectives. Further, each professor will have their own theoretical beliefs, so you would have to know which courses your therapist took and if they paid attention and agreed with their professor’s view of the world. In our experience, a therapist’s education is just one influence on how therapists view their clients and how they work with clients. A therapist’s style of practice is also influenced by the training and experience they receive after their education, and by their own life experiences.
If the license is LPC or LCSW or LMFT, you haven’t learned anything new. Usually (but not always), a therapist’s license simply matches their field of education. If the therapist’s education is in a counseling field (MA or MS or MEd), they will be licensed as a counselor. If their education was in social work (MSSW), they will be licensed as a clinical social worker. If their education was in marriage and family therapy (MMFT), they will be licensed as a marriage and family therapist. If they earned a PhD in Psychology, they will be a Licensed Psychologist.
The LCDC license is a different story. LCDC’s are licensed to treat chemical dependency. LPC’s, LCSW’s, and Psychologists can also treat chemical dependency, and may even have training in such treatment, but LCDC’s have documented their training and experience in that practice. A therapist with only an LCDC license is limited to the treatment of chemical dependency related issues (This limited focus is the reason for not requiring a master’s degree.)
If you are choosing a therapist, all of the previous comments apply equally to Psychologists. However, Psychologists also receive specialized training in assessment. While other professionals may administer some tests that they have been trained in, Psychologists are designated as the “testing people.” If your wife or the court has suggested you get a “Psychological Assessment,” then you are looking for a Psychologist.
The NCC designation is a nationally recognized certification for counselors who have passed a national exam. Now in order to be licensed as a Professional Counselor in Texas, you have to pass the NCC exam, so every young LPC is also NCC. Some LPC’s list their NCC credential after their name. It means, “Hey, I passed the test!”
If you are picturing Barney Fife, and thinking you would rather work with Andy Taylor, think again. Some of our interns have more experience in their field of interest than some of our licensed therapists. We have every confidence in our interns. Remember, these are not academic interns who are still in school. They are License interns. Like all of our therapists, they are ethically bound to only provide the services that they can provide competently. Unlike other therapists, they are required to regularly review their cases with their supervisor, so in some sense, the client is getting a team of therapists.
Specialties or Interest Areas
Let’s say that you want to talk to a therapist about parenting your teenager. We don’t believe whether they are trained and licensed as a counselor or social worker is that informative. No matter how many, or which letters they have after their name, a more important question is do they have any training, interest, and experience (hopefully successful) with helping parents of teenagers. If you click on the therapist’s name, you can learn about those interest areas, although most of our therapists have interests and expertise beyond what they have in that short list. If you aren’t sure, send them an email and ask.
Your therapist’s style should match your own style. You should feel comfortable and feel like they understand your situation. You may get some clues to this during your initial phone call, when you are telling them why you are seeking counseling. Unfortunately, you really won’t know until you have met with them. We understand this, and don’t take it personally if we’re not a match for you. Your confidence is more important than our theoretical skills. One of the advantages of working in a group practice is that there are other therapists to easily refer you to.
Finally, you want to find a therapist who sees clients in the office you want to go to (Denton, Lewisville, or Decatur) and has appointments available during times that you can attend.
Is there a secret order implied in the list of licenses or the list of therapists? No. There is a hierarchy, but it doesn’t have anything to do with clinical competence, and knowing it won’t help you choose a therapist. But just so you don’t worry, here are the rules:
- If you sign the paychecks, you get to be at the top
- If you design the web page, you get to be second
- Some therapists have other employment and only see clients “part-time.” They are listed after therapists who are “full-time”
- Therapists are then listed by number of hours they spend seeing clients at the agency
- There is no hierarchy in the phone extensions. Once upon a time they were alphabetical.
The webmaster would like to tell you that social work is the superior education and licensure, but he’s afraid you’ll tell one of the LPC therapists, who outnumber him 10-1.
E-mail us and we’ll help you find the right match for you.