ARE YOU A PSYCHIATRIST, PSYCHOLOGIST, OR….?
This is a question that is asked of mental health professionals with some frequency; many people do not know the differences between mental health professionals. There are significant differences in training, preparation, orientation, philosophy and types of care. Outlined below are some of the major points:
Psychiatrist – completed a medical degree (MD), involving medical school, internship, and then a three year residency specializing in psychiatry. Some psychiatrists go on to further study in a fellowship, which may specialize in areas such as treating children, severe mental illness, or community mental health for example. While psychiatrists are traditionally trained in providing therapy as well as medication, most are now oriented towards providing medications, monitoring and adjusting drugs prescribed, and collaborating with a primary therapist who provides psychotherapy. There are a handful who provide both therapy and medications, but this is a declining number.
Psychologist – completed a doctorate degree in psychology, usually four years of study after a bachelor’s degree, focused on human development, human behavior, personality theory, family relationships, and other areas. A major research project has to be completed to earn the doctorate degree. Psychologists are the one profession trained in psychological testing and assessment, whether that be psychological, neuro-psychological, or educational in nature. Their focus is on providing direct clinical services to clients, along with supervision and training of other service providers. The traditional degree has been a doctor of philosophy in psychology (Ph.D.). A more recent degree that has developed is a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.). The Psy.D. is more purely clinically oriented with a research project that is more clinically focused and somewhat less rigorous than the Ph.D. project, from a scientific, empirical, and purely research point of view.
Clinical Social Worker – completed a master’s degree in social work, usually two years of study after a bachelor’s degree. As contrasted with community social work, this is a focus on providing counseling and therapy to clients, with services to children, adolescents, couples, families, and groups, depending on the therapist’s training, orientation, and specialties. Southern California schools that provide this training include USC and UCLA. Known as an “LCSW” (licensed clinical social worker).
Marriage and Family Therapist – completed two years of study after a bachelor’s degree. Focus is on providing therapy to families, couples, and individuals, including study of human development, human behavior, and personality theory. Known as an “MFT” (marriage and family therapist). Southern California schools with this degree include Cal State Dominguez Hills, Cal State Los Angeles, Antioch University, or Pepperdine, as well as others.
All of these degrees can qualify for independent practice in California by completing supervised hours of training, passing a licensing examination, and then renewing the license every few years, which requires continuing education classes for the professional. In community mental health agencies, graduate students provide therapy for clients as part of their training, under the supervision of licensed professionals.
Dr. Solomon is a Clinical Psychologist in Torrance. He is a member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network. Dr. Solomon can be reached at (310) 539-2772, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2012 by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D
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