top of page
  • Writer's pictureHeather Steele

What do the letters after a Therapist’s name mean?

Therapist Titles and Letters

With all the letters after a Therapists name, it can be pretty confusing. Ph.D. MD. LMFT. LCSW. MS. CPC. LCAS. MA. In short, these letters are all titles and they are based on their levels of education and what specific area they practice or are licensed in [1]. Just as a Doctor, a Lawyer, or an Engineer can have all different titles or specialties. Therapists have them as well. In this article, we’re going to break down these letters for you and make them a little bit easier to understand.

The same reason you wouldn’t want a mechanic fixing your roof. You shouldn't choose a therapist or counselor that doesn't have the qualifications to effectively help you with your struggles. Some of these titles you may recognize and some you may not. A lot of these titles can overlap and knowing what some of these titles mean makes it easier for you to choose the right Therapist based on your needs. Find out more about what exactly a Therapist does, here.

PsyD. - Doctorate of Psychology

A PsyD is a doctorate in psychology. This means that the therapist has completed some pretty extensive coursework and training in psychology and is qualified to provide psychological services. These therapists typically focus on providing clinical treatments for severe cases and disorders. While they can come up with new therapy. They typically use the methods that have been shown to be effective instead of finding ways of treating patients. In short, they are more into the practice of psychology rather than research and study of it. They can work in hospitals or even clinical facilities. The large majority of people seeking therapy or counseling do not require specialized training from these individuals.

Ph.D. - Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology.

When most think of therapist titles they think of a Psychologist. This is the one that is probably most associated with therapy, even though this title heavily focused on research and academia. These therapists use psychology-based methods and techniques to help their patients, such as communication and behavioral therapy. They generally focus more on the research side of Psychology and how to develop and advance better treatment methods for various types of patients.

Studying the greats before them such as Freud and Jung. They look into what Psychology is and how can we improve it. They can teach and lead classes in colleges and universities or conduct group studies in clinical areas. They also have advanced training in order to start their own private practice and help a wide variety of patients improve their mental health.

M.D. - Doctor in Medicine

While a Psychologist focuses on therapy techniques such as talking and communicative treatments. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have obtained their degree and license in medicine but their practice is in mental health. They have completed all the necessary training to be a regular physician but specialize in the field of psychology. They understand all the workings of the human body and how it functions but prefer to understand the inner workings of how a human’s mind operates on a psychological level.

While technically they are the only ones allowed to prescribe medicine some states have allowed laws for other psychologists to be able to prescribe medications. In the same way, you would go to your family physician to get prescribed antibiotics for an infection. You would go to a Psychiatrist to get treated and prescribed medication for your mental health disorder. They can deal with severe mental health issues in which traditional therapies are not all that effective but can still use traditional techniques to better understand their patients.

MS. and MA. - Master of Science and Master of Arts.

This title refers to a Master’s degree in Psychology. While just one level below a doctorate, these therapists can work in areas such as social work or counseling. They can receive their degree in a science focus which tends to lean more on Psychology as a science itself or, an art focus which balances the emphasis with liberal arts and psychology.

These individuals can begin gaining experience while pursuing their doctorates or specializing in individual counseling, marriage counseling, or family counseling. While they typically don’t focus too heavily on the clinical and research side of Psychology they can have exposure and gain experience in certain fields. After obtaining their master's they can receive many licenses from the state or other training and certifications in specific techniques.

MSW. - Master of Social Work

This title is a therapist who has received their master's in Psychology but with an emphasis in Social Work. They typically deal with more social issues such as economic, behavioral, welfare, and community issues. They promote and advocate for the well-being and mental health of a wide variety and diverse group of people. Operating on the understanding and science of Psychology but applying it to a community setting. They deal with social issues that can be often overlooked. Such issues as racial identity, sexual orientation, age, and financial and community relationships are all issues that be encountered by professional social workers.

LCSW. and LCSWA. - Licensed Clinical Social Worker/ Associate.

This is a specialty in which professionals have been licensed by their state in order to work in the area of social work. While the MSW denotes the degree, this license denotes the field of expertise. They often deal with not only the clinical aspect of social work and are trained in the diagnosis, and treatment of mental health issues in patients. Depending on the state requirements they may have to complete recommended minimum hours and experience before obtaining their license. The A stands for associate and this is a person who works alongside and is supervised by a licensed professional.

LCMHC. and LCMHCA - Licensed Clinical Medical Health Counselor/Associate.

This is a specialty track that is the area of counseling. These licensed professionals' main focus is in the area of the patient's mental health while counseling them through a wide variety of life issues they may encounter. This can be the death of a family or friend, identity crisis, depression, anxiety, and much more. They use a wide variety of techniques and therapies in order to help the patient cope and overcome their struggles. They are also trained in the diagnosis, and treatment of mental health issues in patients. Depending on the state requirements they may have to complete recommended minimum hours and experience before obtaining their license. The A stands for associate and this is a person who works alongside and is supervised by a licensed professional.

LCAS. and LCASA. - Licensed clinical addiction specialist/associate.

This specialty license deals with addiction in a clinical setting. These professionals use their knowledge to define and understand the underlying causes of addiction in patients. They help to treat and safely manage patients who have become dependent on a substance and prevent further abuse in order for them to live independent and healthy lives. Keeping the patient from relapsing and finding out the causes of triggers is one area of concern. Helping the patient detox while creating a judgment-free zone and safe mental well-being can help the patient overcome their substance abuse issues.

LMFT - Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists.

This licensed therapist is trained in the area of marriage and family. From divorce and separation to a parent and children relationship, they can help treat the problems associated with family issues such as anxiety and depression. They can develop roles within a family and find better ways to promote their general understanding. Letting all members of the household have

their voices heard allows for a better household dynamic. Their expertise in family well being and mental health allows for them to find and maintain a healthy relationship between all members.

CPC - Certified Professional Coach

This certification is a specialty in the area of coaching. While similar to counseling. Coaching is about motivation and improving the lives of an individual. Coaching can help train someone to avoid bad or negative habits and promote positive ones. From diet to relationships a CPC can improve those areas of one’s life. In the same way, someone may have a coach in the gym, a CPC can help a person become the best version of themself by maintaining their mental health and empowering them throughout their lives. [2]

More important than the titles is choosing the right one for you

With the wide variety of titles and specialties, there is someone out there for everyone. It’s important that you find a therapist you can trust and feel comfortable with in order to get the help you need to improve your life and relationships.

Having a better grasp on understanding these titles and abbreviations and what they mean, will allow you to better research what type of treatment you may need. Not sure what is the best fit for you? Reach out to our professional team at Morrisville Counseling and Consulting or send us a message and we can chat over a free consultation to find our more about you and guide you in the right direction.


  1. Therapist Titles, or “What Do Those Letters After Your Name Mean?" - Emily Decker -\

  2. Types of Coaching Certifications (Definitions & Differences) - iPEC -


bottom of page