Why choose a Licensed Psychologist?
Like many people seeking help, you may be experiencing some confusion about the kinds of professionals there are out there to provide mental health services. There are many types of licensed psychotherapists, and they all have different educational and clinical training backgrounds. Great therapists can be found from each of the training models.
A Psychologist has trained at the doctoral level (Ph.D), which includes 5-7 years of education and training, full-time. This begins with extensive coursework in the theory, research and practice of psychology. Several years of internships must be completed, and original research project finished (a Psy.D. does not require this). Psychologists must pass a written examination, and have thousands of training hours to qualify for licensure. A Psychologist may be the right choice if you want a highly training therapist and are not looking primarily for medication management.
A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D.), who completes 3-4 years of residency training in mental health diagnosis and treatment after medical school. Psychiatrists have the ability to prescribe medications, and may focus their practice on medication management. Psychiatrists gain their specialization during their residency—with supervision and taking various seminars. A Psychiatrist has to take specialized Boards after their residency is complete.
Licensed Counselors (LPCC) / Therapists (LMFT) and social workers (LCSW) generally have a master's degree (2 years full-time graduate school), and requisite internship hours, and must pass a written exam. They often work in a variety of community-based settings, and may practice privately as well, often with a focus on marital and family issues or individual counseling. Life Coaches, hypnotherapists, & mentors are not licensed therapists and do not treat psychological difficulties—they generally focus on a particular set of skills in which they may be certified by a training institute.