Navigating the terminology for therapist credentials can be confusing…
Despite the credentials, all NLBH therapists are chosen for their experience and specialties and so you will always be placed with somebody who is well-qualified to work with you. With terms like counselor and therapist interchangeably used, it can be confusing to understand the differences behind some of the credentials for mental health clinicians. We’re including some information below so that you’ll have a better idea about each type of professional.
Clinical Mental Health Counselors (LCHMC, LCMHCS)
Individuals who were trained in a counseling program typically get licensed as a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC). In North Carolina, the requirement for becoming licensed is 3000 hours of supervised practice acquired after obtaining their master’s degree. Typically, counselors are trained for clinical settings but some can specialize in school counseling. A Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor who has additional experience and training in supervision can also obtain the status as a License Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor (LCMHCS).
A professional pursuing their license as a counselor can become approved as a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate (LCMHCA). These professionals are not fully-licensed and have not met the 3000 hours of supervised practice requirement listed above. They must remain under the supervision of a board-approved supervisor until they meet the full requirements.
Psychologists (Ph.D. or Psy.D.)
Psychologists that you will see in a clinical setting have obtained a Ph.D. or Psy.D., with the distinction that psychologists obtaining a Ph.D. have graduated from a program with more of a balanced practitioner/researcher focus, whereas those psychologists graduating from a Psy.D. program have generally had more of a focus on becoming a practitioner. Psychologists have about 4-7 years of study with a full year devoted to applied practice. Psychologists usually have more experience in psychological testing than other disciplines.
Licensed Psychological Associates (LPA) are professionals who have obtained a master’s degree in psychology. An LPA must remain under the supervision of a psychologist during their career.
Social Workers (LCSW)
Individuals trained in social work programs often can get a broad focus, with each university program offering a different options for the program’s focus. Social workers can obtain a degree that provides a specific concentration in social issues, advocacy, health care policy and clinical mental health. A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) has acquired 3000 hours of supervised clinical practice.
A professional pursuing their license as an LCSW can be conferred the status of Licensed Clinical Social Worker Associate (LCSWA). They are not considered to be fully-licensed and must remain under the supervision of a social worker until they have met the requirements for state license.
Marriage & Family Therapists (LMFT)
Individuals who were trained in a marriage and family therapy program typically get licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). In North Carolina, the requirement for becoming licensed is 1500 hours of supervised practice, of which 500 can be obtained during their master’s training and 1000 can occur after graduation.
A professional pursuing their license as a counselor can become approved as a Marriage and Family Therapist Associate (LMFTA). These professionals are not fully-licensed and have not met the 1500 hours of supervised practice requirement listed above and must remain under the supervision of a board-approved MFT supervisor until they meet the full requirements.
Addictions Specialists (LCAS, CCS-I, CCS)
Professionals who work in clinical settings with addiction, may want to pursue credentialing as a Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist (LCAS). Individuals with this status have completed a 300 hour practicum and 4000 hours of post-masters, supervised experience in the area of substance abuse counseling.
In working towards the LCAS credential, some may receive the Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist Associate (LCAS-A) status, after completing the initial 300 hour practicum but not having reach the full 4000 hours of supervised practice. Additionally, professionals with an LCAS may obtain status as a supervisor, first becoming a Clinical Supervisor Intern (CCS-I) in having met training requirements. After 4000 hours of experience as a supervisor, a CCS-I then is conferred the status of a Certified Clinical Supervisor (CCS).
Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS)
This supervision certification is provided by the Center for Credentialing & Education. In many states it is used as the certification for supervisors and requires that a professional meet both training and education in supervision.