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Who can provide therapy?

When you are looking for a therapist, and new to therapy, it can be hard to understand the different titles, licenses and credentials of professionals in the field. Let’s explore who can provide therapy…

In New Jersey, therapy can be provided by several licensed mental health professionals such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, social worker, or psychiatric nurse.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental illness and is licensed to write prescriptions. Many mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, are treated with medications along with ‘talk’ therapy. The psychiatrist will conduct an initial psychiatric evaluation to determine if medication would be beneficial for an individual. Sometimes it is a combination of medication and therapy that is needed to best treat the mental health condition. Many mental health disorders, such as depression, can have a biological basis and being prescribed a medication may be part of your treatment plan. If medication is prescribed, the psychiatrist will meet periodically with the client for brief medication management sessions and the client will usually receive ‘talk’ therapy on a more frequent basis, perhaps bi-weekly, with another licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist,  LPC/LMFT or LCSW. The letters after a person’s name indicate their credentials.

There is also an APRN designation which is a licensed advanced practice registered nurse. This individual is a registered nurse who has training in mental health services and can prescribe medications along with providing treatment for mental health disorders.

The following licensed mental health professionals are all qualified to evaluate and treat emotional difficulties and mental health disorders, but cannot prescribe medications:

  • A psychologist holds a doctoral degree (PhD, PsyD, or EdD) in psychology which is the study of mind and behavior.
  • An LPC is a licensed professional counselor and an LAMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Both have a master’s degree (MA) in counseling.
  • LSW is a Licensed Social Worker: has a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree.  An LSW may provide clinical social work services when supervised by an LCSW.
  • LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker: has a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. While both LSW and LCSW have written licensing exam requirements, the LCSW has also completed additional clinical experience to obtain the LCSW license.

Letters in addition to the above may indicate additional certifications or training. For example, LCADC is a licensed clinical alcohol and drug counselor.

Do not hesitate to ask your therapist what the letters after their name means. You are paying for their services and have a right to know the credentials of the person providing your care. They won’t be insulted if you ask.

How can I find the right therapist for me?

First, identify what’s most important to you in a therapist.  Do you prefer working with a woman or man? Do you prefer someone who uses an eclectic approach or is DBT preferred?  Is someone whose client focus is LGBTQ important to you?

Once you’ve thought about what’s important…

  • Ask your friends and family – people you trust, for their recommendations.
  • Call your health insurance company for a list of in-network providers or go to their website to look.
  • Go online to Psychology Today and utilize their free therapist search tool that helps you choose a local therapist using various search criteria.
  • Ask your primary care physician for a recommendation. Many therapists have their own website where you can learn more about them – their training, therapy style, specialties, etc. Give them a call to ask any questions you may still have after viewing their website.
  • Search online for “Therapist Near Me” or “Therapist in Mercer County” to find local listings

For those times when you may need some additional assistance in dealing with life’s challenges, JFCS is here for you. Call 609-987-8100 to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed professionals. The JFCS clinical team includes licensed clinical social workers, licenses social workers and a licensed family & marriage therapist.

Teri Cheresnick, LCSW, LCADC