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Therapist Credentials Explained

To identify qualified practitioners, evaluate their credentials to confirm they have the required foundation of education, training, and oversight. The two areas to consider are license to practice and professional certifications, both are explained below:

License to Practice: It is important to see if the practitioner is licensed by either the State or Federal government or by a national sanctioned licensing board. This indicates that the practitioner has met predetermined and standardized criteria for their profession. The license is time-limited, and often has requirements that need to be met before the license can be renewed for another time-limited period. As a consumer, it is important to know that the practitioner’s license to practice their profession is current and active.

Professional Certifications: Professional certifications indicate a practitioner has additional training in a specialty focus or treatment approach. These certifications are granted by an association that is typically not regulated by the government, although some certifications are regulated by a state certification board. The association and/or the state certification board creates predetermined and standardized criteria. The certification is often time-limited and and requires specific criteria to be met to renew and/or maintain the certification.

Common License to Practice Acronyms Defined:

  • APRN – stands for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and defines a level of nursing practice that utilizes extended and expanded skills, experience and knowledge in assessment, planning, implementation, diagnosis and evaluation of the care required
  • A.T.R. – Art Therapist
  • CCDC, NCAC, or MAC – all refer to Certified Chemical Dependency Counselors; MAC is a Master Addiction Counselor
  • CNS – stands for Clinical Nurse Specialists who are Advanced Practice nurses who hold a master’s or doctoral degree in a specialized area of nursing practice. A CNS’ scope of practice includes diagnosing and treating diseases, injuries and/or disabilities within his/her field of expertise
  • LCSW – designates Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • LICSW – designates Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
  • LMHC – stands for Licensed Mental Health Counselor
  • LMFT and MFT – stand for Marriage and Family Therapist; LMFT indicates licensure
  • LPC – stand for Licensed Professional Counselor
  • MA – refers to a Master’s degree in Counseling or Psychology
  • MD (Psychiatrist) – is a medical doctor specializing in mental health care. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication and some offer psychotherapy
  • PhD and PsyD – designate doctorate degrees in clinical or counseling psychology
  • RD – Registered dietitian

IMPORTANT NOTE: Acronyms and credentials can differ slightly by state and profession. Please check with the appropriate Federal or State licensing board for further clarification.