A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and the only professional that specializes in mental health care and can prescribe medications. (Family doctors often prescribe medications for mental health concerns, but do not have specialized training or background in treatment mental disorders.) Most psychiatrists focus on prescribing the appropriate medication that’s going to work best for that individual and their concerns; a few also do psychotherapy.
Clinical Social Workers
Typically a clinical social worker will have completed a Master’s degree in social work (MSW) and carry the LCSW designation if they are doing psychotherapy (Licensed Counselor of Social Work). Most programs require the professional to go through thousands of hours of direct clinical experience, and the program focuses on teaching principles of psychotherapy and social work.
Licensed Professional Counselor
The requirements for this designation, which can be in addition to the professional’s educational degrees, vary from state to state. Most are Master’s level professionals who have had thousands of hours of direct clinical experience.
There are a wealth of other professional designations and initials that follow professionals’ names. Most of these designate a specialty certification or the like, not an educational degree.
The key to choosing which one of these professionals is right for you is to determine what kinds of things are important to you and finding a professional that seems to fit with your needs and personality. Often times, finding the right therapist or mental health professional takes more than one try. You may need to “try on” a few professionals before finding one that feels right to you. Don’t be afraid to do this, as it is your well-being and treatment you’re investing in.
Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC)
Licensed by the state, this designation requires a national certification and hundreds of hours in substance abuse/dependence education, in order to meet global competency standards.
Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LCADC)
A LCADC requires a Master’s or Doctoral Degree in any field of social science from a reputable accredited University or College, accomplishment in oral and written Board-prescribed examinations, along with thousands of hours of post-graduate counseling involving alcohol and substance abuse patients.