Demystifying Mental Health Provider Nomenclature

Welcome to the second edition of my blog. Thank you for allowing me to occupy a piece of the real estate in your inbox! For this second post, I’d like to provide a little information about the various providers of mental health services.
Let’s examine the different types of providers. There are psychiatrists, therapists, counselors, life coaches, and social workers. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. Many psychiatrists will offer therapy services, but the primary goal of a psychiatrist is to prescribe medications and manage those medications once they are prescribed. Psychiatrists are commonly found in agencies and hospitals. The terms “therapists” and “counselor” are catch-all phrases. This person usually has a minimum of a Masters degree, but their degree can be in any field related to counseling, including social work. Some therapists earn a Ph.D. Most who choose to earn a Ph.D. have a desire to teach. The education of a social worker and a counselor differs slightly. Social work follows a medical model. Generally speaking, therapy received from a social worker is for the purposes of problem solving (or to “fix” a problem). Although a counselor also aims to problem solve, the focus is on self discovery and self awareness. Social workers can also focus on self discovery and self awareness, however, that may or may not be the goal. Problem solving is a “side effect” of the work done in counseling. A life coach is generally someone who gives advice to an individual in order to help them reach a specific goal. A life coach does not have to have a license to practice and there are no minimum educational requirements. How does someone become a therapist? There are educational requirements in order to become a therapist. In SC, there is a minimum of a Masters degree. The type of education received dictates the type of licensure exam that is required in SC.

I am pursuing a license to be an licensed professional counselor (LPC). Upon graduation, I will apply for my license and the Department of Labor will invite me to take an examination. When I pass my exam, I will have the designation of LPCI. The “I” stands for intern. It will also prohibit me from billing any insurance carrier other than Medicaid. It does not prohibit me for accepting private pay clients. I must maintain my “I” for two years. During these two years, I will meet with a counseling supervisor who will go over my cases and advise me while I am in this provisional license period. After the two years, I will provide proof of meeting my hours requirement and I will be able to drop the “I.”
Until next time-


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