Psychiatrist, Therapist, Social Worker, LCSW, Psychologist... Who Should You See?

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Psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist,

counselor, licensed counselor,

LCSW, LMFT! Today we're going to

talk about all the different types of

mental health professionals out there.

What does it mean and what kind of help

can they offer?

*intro music*

I tried to put these in an

order that kind of makes sense, where we go

from potentially least amount of school

and lowest cost, up to the potentially

most amount of school and highest cost

and I hope that kind of makes sense as I roll

through these and I'm gonna reference my notes

because I actually had to do a

surprising amount of research to figure

this out for you so let's get into it!

The first mental health professional I want to

talk about are counselors. Someone can

call themselves a counselor by getting a

four-year degree from a college and then

getting trained in whatever area they

work in. A counselor can work in a

treatment facility and be like an

addiction counselor, recovery counselor

or they can work in a school and be a

school counselor. Now a counselor, such as

this, isn't someone who can offer a

diagnosis, or would put together a

treatment plan for you.

These are usually people that kind of

guide and support you along the way and

get you into the proper help that you

really need. So these can often be the

first person you have access to and are

oftentimes free through different

programs, whether it be a school or

addiction treatment or anything like


The next mental health professional I'm

going to talk about are licensed

professional counselors, or LPCs. That's

the acronym still put at the end of

their name, telling you what their

licensure is. Now I had to look up a lot

about licensed professional counselors

because I didn't really know that much

about it and I don't have any colleagues

that I interact with who have this. But

from my research it sounds like they do

the exact same thing that I did. They get

a four-year degree in psychology from

undergraduate program, then they go on to

get their masters, two years, then they

gather 3,000 hours and they call them

3000 clinical hours, meaning I'm sitting down

with a client and I'm talking or I'm doing

group therapy, some kind of therapeutic

hours and then they take a licensing exam.

Their licensing exam is called the

"National Counselor Examination" or NCE,

and then they're licensed, and they can practice

just like I do. Asked what licensed

professional counselors do and how it can

feel is a client, in truth, and all the

reading that I did, it

sounds very similar to what a therapist does,

to what I do. They can offer diagnoses,

offer treatment to you, they create

treatment plans, they can let you know we

need a higher level of care, they can do

behavioral techniques.

It sounds like they pretty much do the

very same thing. The only thing that I

found a little different from literature

about what I do is that with licensed

professional counseling, they talked a

lot about addiction and so I wonder if

that's something that maybe they're more

specialized in or something they have

more emphasis on? So I guess I need to do

even more research to find that out, but

that's really the only difference. The

next mental health professional that I

want to talk about is myself!

An LMFT. What does that stand for you might

wonder? It's a licensed Marriage and Family

Therapist. Now for many of you who've been

watching me for a long time you've heard

this story but what I did to become a

licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

is, I got a four-year degree in

psychology from Pepperdine University,

and then went back to Pepperdine, cause

I couldn't get enough and got a master's. So two more

years and got my masters in clinical

psychology with an emphasis on marriage

and family therapy. Then I got out, I

gathered 3000 clinical hours and then I

studied to take my licensing exam and

here I am! Just, you know, I don't know,

like, 12 short years later. As for what I

can do as a licensed Marriage and Family

Therapist, I can diagnose and I can treat

a wide variety of mental illnesses, I can

put together treatment plans, I work in

conjunction with hospitals and inpatient

wards and pretty much what it is, is you

come into my office, we talk about things

I offer some tips and tricks and tools

and you use utilize those in your

regular everyday life and we work through

things. They like to think of an MFT

as a person in relationship model. And that

would kind of make more sense as we go

through the next few types of mental

health professionals, but I work a lot

with relationships. Relations with

yourself, relationships with others, and

improving those. The next mental health

professional that I want to talk about,

are licensed Clinical Social Workers or

LCSWs. And that's the acronym that you'll see

at the end of their names. Now licensed

Clinical Social Workers have been around

the longest. They were the first. That was

like the first program available for

people who wanted to offer up therapy

and just like I did, just like the


professional counselors do, they go

through four years of undergrad

education to a master's degree in

clinical social work, they gather 3000

clinical hours and they study and take

licensing exam.

Now because I have a lot of friends and

colleagues who are LCSWs, I know firsthand

that the testing is very similar and we

could actually study together and we all

passed! So to me, as a client, if you

went in to see an LMFT or an LCSW or

even an LPC, I don't really think you'd

feel any different. As always the most

important component in therapy is that

you actually like the therapist and you

feel connected to them. You feel like you

can tell them anything. And I think that that is really

what we need to focus on rather than

what particular degree they received.

Now social workers were created out of a

need. Out of the hospital setting. That's

really where they came from and so I

like to think of the model that they

work within is person in environment. So a

lot of social workers, like my friend

Rocio, who has been on the channel, she goes

out into the field and go to people's

houses and makes sure that they have the

programs and things set up for them so

they can get to and from work or group

or whatever it is that they're needing

in life. She makes sure that their whole

environment is set up to be therapeutic

and helpful for them. The next mental

health professional that I want to talk

about, are psychologists. Now a psychologist,

unlike LCSWs, LMFTs and LPCs, have not only

a four-year undergraduate degree, but then a

four-year doctorate program. These are

doctors! You call them, you know, like Dr.

Alexa Altman. She's a psychologist she

got four more years after her four year

undergrad, unlike me who did two years.

But similar to LCSWs and LMFTs and LPC's

they also finish their four-year

doctorate program and they gather

clinical hours, they gather 3,000

clinical hours and then they sit for

their licensing exams.

Now I don't know, I haven't talked to

Alexa about what the licensing exam

really looks like, because she took a

while ago as well, but I would guess that

it is very similar,

however, people who have a Doctorate can,

this is the one big difference, they can

focus on research.

They don't have to be clinical and that

is the difference between of PhD

potentially and a PSYD, and that's why

a PSYD was created because the

clinical doctorate program. Now that

doesn't mean that someone with a PhD couldn't

have done a clinical emphasis and have

gathered clinical hours and become

licensed, that's just why there are those

two options. For those of us in school we

can kind of choose early on whether we

want to focus on potentially

research-based, or we want to focus more

on clinical treatment, one-on-one,

person-to-person. Due to the fact that

psychologists kind of come out of the

research realm, that's where it was kind

of born out of, a lot of them do much of

the testing and assessment that I refer my

clients out for. Now that doesn't mean

that I can't do it as well but I have to

go through these certain trainings and I

just think that maybe it's because it's

born out of research, that a lot of

psychologists are interested in testing and

assessment. But other than that, just like

I said before, as a client coming to see

a psychologist or an LCSW, LMFT, LPC, it

won't feel any different. Just like Alexa,

she works out of her office, one-on-one,

with clients just like I do, where

you come in and you talk to put a

treatment plan together and we work

towards our goals. The only big

differentiation between any of these is

honestly, specialties.

What are they trained in? What do they

work with the most? What do they

understand the most? And as a client

trying to find the proper fit, I think

those are the questions that you really

need to be asking. What are you

specializing in? Have you worked in an

inpatient ward with that particular

issue? What is your training like? Did you

do CEUs in these? And CEUs are

'Continuing Education Units' that we all,,

LPCs, all the people I've talked about are

required to do, every two years, are

responsible for 36 hours. So I would just

ask for more information on their

specialties so that you can make sure you're

getting a treatment that you need and

deserve. The last mental health

professional I want to talk about are

psychiatrists! You guys remember Barry. He

came on. We sat in his office, we talked

about medication and all of those things

because Barry is a psychiatrist. He is a

medical doctor. He went to medical school

and that's really what differentiates

them from all of the other mental health


He not only got his four-year

undergraduate degree. He did

years of medical school, two years of

residency and then went on to, you know,

take his boards and all the other things

that come along with being a medical

doctor and so just like we call

psychologist doctors because they have

their doctorate we call psychiatrists doctors.

As to what psychiatrists can do, they can

offer therapy and mostly they prescribe

medication. Back-in-the-day, psychiatrists

used to do hour-long sessions where they

would offer therapy just like I do, just

like LCSWs and psychologists do and then

they would prescribe medication as


However, due to the way that our system

kind of works, and insurance, you know,

wanting to pay them less and less for

less and less time, most psychiatrists,

nowadays, spend anywhere from 15 to 30

minutes with you doing what we call "med

checks." They want to meet with you, they

want to see how your side effects are,

what you're feeling, if you're improving

if you have anything going on, everything

like that and it's mainly focused around

how the medication is helping or not

helping you.

They can also do a lot of research. Many

psychiatrists don't actually do clinical

work where they see clients. A lot of

them will be in labs and running

studies. I've heard from many of you that

when you first went to see a

psychiatrist they often aren't as warm

and fuzzy as therapists and I think

that's really because, first, they're

pressed for time. If they are seeing

someone every 15-30 minutes,

I don't even know how they manage their

schedules. But also it comes out of the medical

model where they do a lot of research

and they do a lot of behind-the-scenes

stuff and they read more on medication

and not so much on clinical, you know,

interaction or bedside manner. But there

are a ton of wonderful psychiatrist out

there and there are some that don't do

any clinical work at all and do only

research. And the greatest thing is that

I know a lot of wonderful psychiatrists.

And they work with me on many clients

that we share and they are all part of

your treatment team, especially if you

are changing medications, or going

through any kind of side effects, they're

the one I'm gonna send you to you and the

one I'm going to talk to make sure that

you're going to help you want. I hope you

found that helpful, I know we use a lot of

different acronyms and there are a ton

of different mental health professionals

and I hope that just kind of helps you

better understand what they've done in

school, what their specialties can be and

how they can best help you.

And as always know that you don't have

to be at the end of your rope to see a

therapist. I see a therapist and mainly I

do it because I need to vent, and I

need someone to talk to and I need an

outside perspective and I think getting

into therapy sooner rather than later

can save us all a lot of pain and hurt. I

find that by going in early and before I feel

really bad, I end up feeling better much

more quickly and it's easier to kind of

nip it in the bud.

Ideally I would love all of you to be

able to have a therapist on board, a

psychiatrist, as well as your general

practitioner, your regular medical doctor,

because that way we have all bases

covered, right? We have mental health,

physical health, and the pharmacological

stuff that can go on with different

medications they can put you on.

I know that not all of you have the

ability or the resources to do that and

so a very slimmed down version of what a

treatment could look like could be seeing

your school counselor, or recovery

counselor, that comes at a very low cost to

you, and seeing psychiatrist, that hopefully

your insurance will cover and that can

be enough to get us through. But know that

you need more support

there's no shame in asking for it. People

who get into this field, any kind of

mental health professional, do it because

we want to help people. And want to be there

for you. We want to help understand what's

going on and give you the treatment that

you need and deserve.

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