What You Should Know
There is a fair amount of
confusion in the public about the types of therapists and their qualifications.
The first thing to distinguish is the difference between degrees and licensure.
The degree has to do with the type and amount of schooling (e.g. M.A., Ph.D.,
M.D.), while the license (M.F.T, L.C.S.W., Licensed Psychologist) has to do with
supervised clinical experience and a state administered tests. In the
description below, you will note that each level of licensure can have
practitioners with dissimilar degrees.
psychiatrist is a doctor who has completed 4 years of medical school, complete
with rotations in surgery, medicine, etc. After receiving their medical
license, they specialize by completing a 4 year residency. Although prior to
WWII, psychiatry developed the field of talk therapy, currently only a very few
psychiatrists have training to do this. Most commonly, a psychiatric residency
consists of diagnosing and prescribing medication for the more severe
psychiatric cases, usually in a hospital setting.
In private practice,
psychiatrists are very good at diagnosis and are currently the only therapist
that prescribes psychoactive medications. While most psychiatric medications
are prescribed by primary care physicians, the psychiatrist is a specialist.
Typical fees range from $160--$300 for the first hour and then from $60-$100 for
the (on average) monthly 20 minute follow up sessions.
Psychologists usually have a Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree in clinical psychology,
though there are a few other degrees that qualify as well. A Ph.D. is an
“earned doctorate,” meaning the holder has done research to achieve the degree.
Many Psychologists with degrees after 1990 chose to pursue a Psy.D. degree. A
Psy.D. is a professional doctorate, similar to an M.D. or J.D. (attorney) where
research is not emphasized. In addition to a doctoral degree, Psychologists
must complete 3,000 hours of supervised training. It takes a psychologist an
average of 7.1 years after the bachelors degree to become licensed.
Psychologists are trained in a
broader range of mental health topics than any other mental health
professional. They receive instruction in biological, cognitive, and social
bases of behavior, diagnostic evaluation and assessment, personality theory,
intervention and treatment technique, psychological test administration and
construction and in outcome evaluation and research methods.
While other disciplines use
psychological theory and treatment, most new theory and treatment methods are
developed, and researched by psychologists. Psychologists are in the forefront
of research of the mind/body interface and are increasingly called upon to teach
residents and interns in various medical specialties.
In private practice, only
psychologists and psychiatrists have the scope of practice that allows them to
independently diagnose and treat patients in either an office or hospital
setting. While the psychology license is broad, most psychologists specialize in
one or more sub-specialties. While MFT’s and educational psychologists may do
limited psychological testing, psychologists can administer and evaluate the
broadest range of testing. Typical office fees run from $70-$150 per hour.
Licensed Clinical Social
Workers or LCSW’s have a masters degree in social work and have completed
3,200 post-degree supervised hours. It takes an LCSW an average of 4 years
after a bachelors degree to become licensed. In hospital and agency settings
they often work very closely with M.D.’s but they are licensed to see patients
privately as well. There seems to be many less LCSW’s than MFT’s, as their
schools tend to be associated only with major universities. Private fees tend
to be in the $50-$130 range.
Marriage and Family
Therapists (Formerly Marriage Family and Child Counselors). While the name suggests that they focus on marriage and child
issues, in truth, MFT’s treat the same issues as psychologists and clinical
social workers. The difference has to do with the level and type of training
they receive. While the MFT receives about as much classroom training as LCSW’s
and are required to have 3,000 hours of supervised experience, they are
generally considered to be the least well trained as compared to the disciplines
listed above. Interestingly, they are being utilized more and more by the
managed insurance companies, as they are the least expensive to pay. Typical
fees are from $50-$130.
There are more people who “practice” therapy without a license than you would
think. Very often, they get around licensing by working through a “church” or
with “spiritual” issues. There is also a new trend of “coaching” that also
currently does not require any form of licensing. In that these groups are not
regulated, you do not have any reassurance about their
competency. Buyer beware!
We're Different explains how WRP offers
About Our Staff shows the
licensing mix of our therapists.
23945 Calabasas Rd., Suite 202
Calabasas, California 91302