Frequently Asked Questions
Knowing the difference between different specialists and treatment approaches helps make one a knowledgeable consumer. While the professional work of mental health professionals often overlaps, there are some important distinctions. One difference is that psychiatrists go to medical school for training, whereas doctoral level psychologists, psychometrists, LPCs, LACs, LCSWs, LMSWs, LMFTs, and SLPs go to graduate school. Licensed psychologists possess doctoral degrees (Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D.); while LPCs, LACs, LCSWs, LMSWs, LMFTs and SLPs possess master’s degrees. Psychometrists typically possess either a master’s or doctoral degree. Psychiatrists earn either D.O. or M.D. degrees. As medical specialists, psychiatrists often prescribe medication for different types of problems, whereas psychologists and master’s-level clinicians typically do not prescribe medications in their treatment efforts, but rather focus on psychotherapy, counseling and educational approaches. Psychometrists specialize in the administration of psychological and educational tests, and they work in conjunction with licensed psychologists and do not operate independently. LACs and LMSWs also do not operate independently, are usually recent masters-level graduates, and work under supervision for a period of time before being allowed to practice independently. At Arizona Child Psychology, PLLC, we specialize in the utilization of psychological, counseling and educational approaches to the resolution of problems, and we do not prescribe medication. However, we do value the contributions of professional psychiatry, and will sometimes make referrals to our favorite psychiatric colleagues if we believe our client might be in need of this type of treatment.
In order to become a licensed psychologist, a person must first complete their undergraduate college degree and then go on to graduate school to obtain a doctoral degree (Ph.D., Ed.D. or Psy.D.). Sometimes, an individual will also earn a master’s degree along the way to earning a doctorate. The American Psychological Association (APA) accredits 3 different types of doctoral programs in psychology: Counseling Psychology, School Psychology and Clinical Psychology. Graduate school training can last anywhere from 4 to 6 years and is followed by 1 or 2 years of internship or “residency” training, usually at a site away from the graduate university. After residency, most states require an additional 1 to 2 years of supervised work experience before becoming eligible for independent licensure, and some psychologists choose to complete this requirement through a formalized postdoctoral fellowship training program that allows them to further specialize in a particular area. Finally, becoming a licensed psychologist also requires an individual to successfully pass a national psychology licensing exam (the EPPP) before engaging in independent practice. Psychologists are also required to complete additional approved training / education every 2-year licensure cycle in order to keep their knowledge base current and their license active.
The educational requirements for becoming a licensed psychologist are extensive, and provide an in-depth knowledge of psychological and emotional problems, personality and human development, integrated with specialized training in how to apply this knowledge to help people with emotional distress and other problems of living. The psychologist’s training in research also allows him/her to evaluate the best ways to help people and to make “evidence-based” decisions regarding what helps and what doesn’t help different individuals with different types of problems. Most psychologists (especially school psychologists) have specialized training and skills in psychometrics and psychological testing. Psychological tests are used in situations where there are questions about what a person’s particular problem is. For example, a psychologist may use a battery of psychological tests in order to determine whether a child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder or an Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder, or if the child’s problems are being caused by some other reason. Psychological tests can include assessments of personality styles, tests of emotional well-being, intellectual (or “IQ”) tests, tests of academic achievement, tests for possible brain injury, and tests for specific psychological disturbances and their severity. The use of psychological tests requires years of training that involves not only learning how to administer tests, but also how to integrate all the information derived from tests to correctly interpret their meaning. Psychologists are the only mental health professionals who are fully trained and qualified to administer and interpret psychological tests.
In order to become a licensed clinician, a person must first complete their undergraduate college degree and then go on to graduate school to obtain a master’s degree (M.A., M.S., M.C., or MSW degree). Specifically with regard to counseling, the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accredits different types of master’s programs, including marital / couple / family counseling, community counseling, and mental health counseling. Graduate school training typically consists of 2-3 years of academic work, culminating in a 60-credit master’s degree, including 600 hours of supervised internship or fieldwork. An individual must also complete an additional 3200 hours of supervised work experience (approximately 2 years) and successfully pass a national licensing exam (the NBCC) before being allowed to engage in independent practice. Other specific educational and training requirements exist in the fields of social work, marital/family therapy, and speech/language pathology.
The educational requirements for becoming an independently licensed clinician are rigorous, and provide a depth of knowledge regarding human functioning in several core domains, which can include counseling theory, human growth and development, social / lifestyle issues, career development, multicultural foundations, and research / evaluation. A master’s level clinician’s training is usually practitioner focused, and is grounded in the application of knowledge and information derived from social science research to best alleviate problems of the human condition. Each specific discipline also requires additional approved training / education every 2-year licensure cycle in order for clinicians to keep their knowledge base current and their license active.