What is the difference between a LCSW, MFT, Psychologist and Psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are trained medical doctors and can prescribe medication.  Psychologists focus on mental and emotional health but don’t prescribe medication.  They have advanced doctoral degrees and intensive clinical training.

LCSW’s and MFT’s are mental health practitioners, hold Masters level degrees and both require roughly the same amount of direct clinical practice hours in order to be licensed by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences to provide direct psychotherapy in a private practice setting.  While both licenses perform similar work functions, their different underlying philosophical approaches differentiate them.  Social Workers tend to take a person-in-environment model whereas MFT’s generally take a relational model.

What might be more helpful in determining which degree (Masters or Doctors) is right for you, would be to look at your reasons for coming to therapy and then searching around for a clinician that has experience relevant to your needs.  For example, a postpartum therapist will have training and experience working directly with this population and be able to immediately give interventions and support that align with postpartum issues.  A couple therapist will have successful experience with couples and advanced training in empirically validated couples treatment interventions.  A teen therapist will know how to talk to a teen, make him/her feel comfortable, and develop the rapport necessary for effective alignment and interventions.

Not all therapists can meet all individuals in their needs.  For example, Angela Jensen-Ramirez is not a Dialectical Behavioral Therapist.  She has not been trained in DBT and it would be out of her scope of practice to treat someone needing DBT.

It’s important to learn about and talk to the therapist you think would be right for you.  Personal connection is the leading attribute of effective therapy.  So call around, e-mail, and ask questions.

Angela has developed her website around her areas of expertise and specialization.  She invites you to a free 20 minute in office or phone consultation to discuss your needs and answer your questions.