While I’m on the topic of professionalism and ethics, I thought it would be useful to shed some light on the various credentials and educational degrees of different helping professionals. The list of job titles, acronyms after names, and level of education are confusing to the lay person and important things to consider when looking for someone to help you improve your conscious control over your happiness and well-being.

We’ll start with the actual job titles. First off, most helping professionals are called counselors, therapists, coaches or mentors. Counselor and therapist are pretty much synonyms and mean the person has some kind of relevant advanced degree. Coach and mentor, on the other hand, are pretty much unregulated and could be used by someone with nothing more than a high school diploma and a good heart. A psychologist is typically someone with a PhD in psychology, so they will know mental health in great detail. A psychiatrist is someone with a medical degree who specialized in mental health. Only a psychiatrist or another medical doctor can prescribe medications.


So that’s the basic breakdown of job titles and the corresponding level of education. If you’re still reading this, now we’ll tackle the alphabet soup that comes after the helping professionals’ name.

Social Workers:

The title “Social Worker” means the professional has a degree in social work, either a Bachelor’s (BSW) or a Master’s (MSW). A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) has a Master’s in Social Work (MSW), two years of on-the-job experience while being trained by another LCSW, and has passed a national exam on basic clinical skills. On a theoretical level, social workers are more aware and educated to look at an individual in context, in addition too the internal issues.

Mental Health Counselors:

Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC) have a Master’s degree in psychology, two years of on-the-job experience while being trained by another Licensed Professional, and have passed a national exam on basic clinical skills. An LMHC is typically more trained in psychology, including normal psychological development, than an LCSW.

Marriage and Family Therapists:

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) are also educated at the Master’s level, either with a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family therapy or a related degree with a heavy marriage and family emphasis. LMFTs also take a national exam and have two years of on-the-job work experience. LCSWs and LMHCs also provide family therapy; however if the number one issue you have is between you and your significant other, use an LMFT.

So the next time you decide you want to improve your quality of life, I hope this little lesson will help you pick the right professional for the job.