Professional Counseling

What Kind Of Professional Counseling Do I need?

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What kind of professional counseling do I need? If I wrote a letter to my younger self, I would say, Don’t hesitate.

Don’t just lolly-gag & wait for change. Make that counseling appointment now. Click To Tweet

We can be so confused about our needs. And even more confused about what kind of professional counseling we need. Now that I’ve been practicing for over a decade, I’m convinced the public needs clarity about who’s who when it comes to professional counseling.

Why it’s important to know about professional counseling

The professional mental health and wellness field can be so mysterious. What do all those initials behind a person’s name mean anyway?

We’ll cover the differences between those in unlicensed professions in another post: life coaching, business coaching, and spiritual direction. For now, let’s address those who are licensed counselors.

Why look for those who are licensed in their field?

It assures us of their training, education, expertise, continuing education, and accountability.

Just as we don’t trust an unlicensed surgeon to do a kidney transplant, we shouldn’t trust an unlicensed counselor with the tender organs of our souls.

Now that may be a dramatic example for some. But would you even want to consider a tooth extraction by an unlicensed dentist?

On the other hand, you may only need your son-in-law to change a light fixture rather than hiring a certified electrician. In that case, we only need a counseling intern, life coach, spiritual director, or a wise friend.

Our relationship and mental health needs can be mysterious. We don’t know whether our issues are like an old light fixture or a decayed tooth. A first appointment with a licensed professional counselor can help you sort that out. Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t assume medication is the only treatment

It’s the high-dollar TV commercials who promote antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. We automatically go to our primary care physicians or OB/GYN’s even before considering professional counseling.

Most are unaware that talk therapy from a licensed counselor is a better first line of treatment… Click To Tweet

When medication is necessary, it’s always wise to combine it with counseling.

Psychotropic medication is just a small portion of treatment. A combination of medication and talk therapy is many times more effective for wellness than medication alone.

Who’s who when it comes to professional counseling? 

Here’s an overview of non-medical professional counselors. Psychiatrists are not on the list because they are medical doctors trained to prescribe psychotropic medications. They rely on non-medically trained professional counselors to help their patients. A few may also counsel their patients.

Here’s another confusing fact. Each state in the United States has their own laws around licensure. Each profession has their own code of ethics. Titles may vary slightly from state to state. For the sake of simplicity, this list pertains to Tennessee.

A basic understanding of professional counseling differences

This is not a comprehensive list. It’s a simple overview of those trained to diagnose and treat mental illness through non-medical therapies. All are required to continue their education. Many have additional certifications in specialized therapies such as Imago therapy, Gottman, EMDR, or Emotion Focused Therapy.

You’ll find the following professions through private practices, agencies, or counseling centers. All of these professions are Master’s degrees or higher. They are trained to diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders through non-medical treatments.

Licensed Professional Counselor with Mental Health Service Provider Status (LPC-MHSP)

Many LPC-MHSP’s focus on individual therapy. Many have additional training in relationship counseling or group therapy.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)

LMFT’s have a family systems point of view.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker. (LCSW) 

LCSW’s have a broader social and systems perspective.

Licensed Pastoral Counselor

Pastoral counselors generally are ministers, rabbis or, priests with a spiritual focus.

Licensed Clinical Psychologists – (Psy.D) 

Licensed clinical psychologists are the only ones on the list who are rightly called Doctor. They’re also trained trained to administer psychological testing for Attention Deficit Disorder and other diagnosis.

With this clarity, please tell yourself, Don’t just lolly-gag and wait for change. Make that counseling appointment now.  

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About The Author

Judy Herman

Judy Herman is a "theraprenuer" (counselor turned entrepreneur) who looks for divine invitations in people and outdoor adventures with her husband and family. She's a soul cheerleader for leaders and families by helping them create connection beyond conflict through her counseling practice. She writes and speaks with years of marital and clinical experience, four grown children and four grandchildren.

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