There are A LOT of terms that get tossed around in the mental health field. Hopefully this list will help explain some of them.

Therapists or Psychotherapists

Typically have a MFT license (in CA and CO) and sometimes have a LCSW license. This is a Master’s Degree level career. Psychotherapists do talk therapy, which has been clinically shown to be as effective as medicine in some cases. In many cases, a therapist will work with a psychiatrist to help a client receive both psychotherapy and medication management.


Psychologists are PhDs or PsyDs – which are both on a doctorate level. They are NOT medical doctors, but doctors of either philosophy or psychology, respectfully. Psychologists do both psychotherapy and psychological testing.


Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MD). They have been to medical school, just like your primary care doctor, but did a focus on the brain and mental health. They are specialists in treating mental health diagnoses with medication and other treatments that are medically approved.

Social Workers

Social Workers have a LCSW acronym and are found in many different venues. Typically, social workers work in agencies, helping with social services, grief counseling, and in schools. However, there are many social workers who are trained in psychotherapy and have private practices. If you’re curious about someone’s experience, never hesitate to ask.


Like I mentioned in a previous post about couples therapy vs couples counseling, the term counselor is not necessarily regulated – it just depends on the state. There are school counselors, marriage counselors, health counselors, college counselors – they all have different education levels, licenses, and credentials. Again, if you have questions, ask.

Have any questions? Did I miss one? Comment below and I can answer your questions!