Mental Health Degrees & Licenses Explained
A mental health professional is a health care practitioner who offers services for the purpose of improving an individual’s mental health or to treat a mental illness. Mental health practitioners can be mental health counselors (with a master’s degree either in arts or sciences), psychologists (with a doctoral degree either in psychology, education, or philosophy), or psychiatrists (DO or MD). All of these practitioners can deal with the same illnesses, disorders, conditions and issues, but their scope of practice differs.Mental health professionals are trained to improve the mental health of individuals, couples, and families. Because mental health covers a wide range of elements, the scope of practice greatly varies between professionals. Some professionals may enhance relationships while others treat specific mental disorders and illness. Often the scope of practice may overlap, as is the case with psychiatrists and psychologists.
A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) provides service for individuals, couples, or groups wherein interpersonal relationships are examined for the purpose of achieving more adequate, satisfying, and productive marriage and family adjustments. This practice includes relationship and pre-marriage counseling.
A Psychologist has the professional training and clinical skills to help people learn to cope more effectively with life issues and mental health problems. After years of graduate school and supervised training, they are licensed to use a variety of techniques based on the best available research and to consider the patient’s unique values, characteristics, goals and circumstances. Psychologists are trained to administer and interpret a number of tests and assessments that can help diagnose a condition or tell more about the way a person thinks, feels and behaves.
A Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) provides counseling interventions and psychotherapeutic techniques to identify and remediate cognitive, mental and emotional issues, including personal growth, adjustment to disability, crisis intervention, and psychosocial and environmental problems. An LPC helps patients adequately deal with life situations, reduce stress, experience growth, change behavior and make decisions.
A National Certified Counselor (NCC) is a counselor who has met predetermined standards in their training, experience and performance on the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE). An NCC holds a state license to practice mental health counseling.
A Psychiatric and Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is a registered nurse who works with patients or a group of patients to develop a nursing diagnosis and plan or care. A CNS implements the nursing process, evaluates it for effectiveness, and can prescribe medication and administer psychotherapy.
A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) has special knowledge of social resources, human capabilities and the role that unconscious motivation plays in determining behavior. Their goal is to enhance and maintain their patients’ physical, psychological and social function. They apply social work principles and methods including counseling and using applied psychotherapy in a nonmedical way.
A Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) helps individuals who suffer from the effects of substance abuse and the recovery process. A CAC’s skills include assessment, treatment planning, individual and group counseling, case management, crisis intervention and client education.
A Psychiatrist is a physician (either an MD or DO) who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental, addictive and emotional disorders. They are trained in medical, psychological and social components of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders and a broad range of treatment modalities. As physicians, psychiatrists have achieved a rigorous medical education and license to prescribe medication as part of mental health treatment.
Psychotherapy is the use of psychosocial methods within a professional relationship to assist a person or persons in achieving a better psychosocial adaptation, to acquire greater human realization of psychosocial potential and adaptation, to modify internal and external conditions that affect individuals, groups, or communities in respect to behavior, emotions, and thinking, in respect to their intrapersonal and interpersonal processes.