The Difference between LCMFTs, LCPCs, LCSWs, Psychologists, and Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health disorders. Because psychiatrists are medical doctors, they are authorized to prescribe medication. This ability to prescribe medication makes psychiatry unique amongst mental health professions.

Psychologists are similar to psychiatrists in that they specialize in mental disorders. As a part of their specialization, psychologists tend to have experience in psychological testing.  The primary delineation between a psychologist and a psychiatrist is that a psychologist is not authorized to prescribe medication. Psychologists primarily use psychotherapy (“talk therapy”) to address their clients’ needs. Therefore, in general, a person with a mental disorder who visits a psychiatrist for services is more likely to have a treatment plan that involves medication; whereas a person with a mental disorder who visits a psychologist for services is more likely to have a treatment plan that only involves psychotherapy.

Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors (LCPCs) are similar to psychologists in that both fields use psychotherapy to treat clients. The main difference between an LCPC and a psychologist is that the psychologist will probably have more experience administering psychological tests to identify mental illness.  In addition, a psychologist will likely have experience addressing mental illnesses from an academic research perspective. An LCPC is more likely to have experience that is characterized by the practical application of academic research via client contact.

In general, a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist (LCMFT) typically serves the same population as LCPCs (clients in need of mental health services, when the mental health needs do not require medication). One way the field of marriage and family therapy is different from field of counseling in the way that the presenting problem is addressed. Both LCPCs and LCMFT are authorized to diagnose and treat mental health disorders (just like psychologists), but LCMFTs have additional education, training, and experience in addressing individuals and couples within the context of a larger system. For example, instead of simply addressing the symptoms of a client suffering from depression (as an isolated individual), an LCMFT will also address the symptoms of the client in the context of his/her family, his/her friends, his/her employment, etc.  In some cases, people from these various contexts are incorporated into the therapeutic process to facilitate the client’s success after therapy has concluded. The LCMFT’s “systems theory” approach promotes client empowerment and success well beyond the conclusion of services.

Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs) use an approach that is somewhat similar to LCMFTs in that the needs of the individual are considered in a larger context. However, while the context of an LCMFT typically focuses on personalized systems in which the client operates, an LSCW specializes in institutional, legal, economic, and related contexts.  An LCSW typically has an expertise in the social services that may be available to clients.

If you think that the LCMFT “diagnosis and treat” and systems theory approaches might be a good fit for you, call us today at 301-437-5311.