Therapist, counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, life coach...understanding the difference can be confusing and overwhelming. Here's a breakdown of the different types of mental health professionals and what they do:
Therapist/Counselor/Psychotherapist/Talk Therapist: These labels can all be used interchangeably and refer to a professional with a Master's level degree or higher and who is trained in diagnosing and treating mental health issues using a "talk therapy" style of treatment. A licensed therapist has not only received a graduate degree but also received years of supervision and passed a test. Licensing for therapists is regulated at the state level and states may vary in what they call their licensed therapists. Here in Florida they include:
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)- Trained to provide mental health treatment for individuals, families, and groups. Also trained in "macro" issues related to community organization and social justice.
Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor (LMHC)- Trained to provide mental health treatment for individuals, families, and groups.
Psychologist (MA, MS, PhD, PsyD, or EdD)- Psychology programs and psychologists vary in their focus and can include therapy, research, and psychological testing. Psychologists are often the go to professional for formal neuropsychological testing for thinks like autism and learning disorders.
Psychiatrist: A medical doctor with specialized training in treating mental health issues with medications. Many psychiatrists only provide medication management while others provide both medication and talk therapy.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner: A medical nurse practitioner (graduate level degree) with specialized training in treating mental health issues with medications. Most only prescribe medications and do not provide therapy. May be prohibited from prescribing certain medications (narcotics).
Life Coach: Does not require any formal education or training nor are they regulated by any licensing board or laws governing mental health care. Life Coaches focus on support and helping their clients overcome obstacles and reach goals.