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What the heck do all the abbreviations for therapist means and how are they different?

In order to become a counselor or therapist, there is a long process of training, interning, and accumulating experience hours, resulting in different levels of licensure. Generally, each license type has a “provisional” license category, where the individual can provide clinical services under the supervision of a clinical supervisor, and an advanced or “fully licensed” category, where the individual can operate independently.


An LMSW (Licensed Master in Social Work) has graduated with a Master’s in Social work and completed a state-issued exam to be licensed. LMSW’s have a limited license when working in a clinical setting. An LCSW (Licensed Clinical in Social Work) is an advanced licensure. In order to become an LCSW, the individual has completed a minimum of two years of work post-LMSW, with clinical supervision from a licensed supervisor, and taken an additional clinical licensing exam.

An LCDC-i (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor intern) has completed an education process and passed a licensing exam. An LCDC-i is working to complete intern hours to become a fully licensed LCDC. LCDC-i’s have a limited license when working in a clinical setting. An LCDC (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) has completed an internship and accrued the required number of hours to become fully licensed. These practitioners specialize in substance use and are limited with working with other mental health related issues, due to only being licensed to treat substance use disorders. LCDC’s are the only type of counselors who do not have to have a master’s degree. An individual can become an LCDC with an associate or bachelor’s degree, and then number of intern hours vary, depending on degree level.

An LPC-i (Licensed Professional Counselor intern) has graduated with a Master’s in counseling or a related field and has passed a licensing exam. LPC-i’s have a limited license when working in a clinical setting. An LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) has completed the clinical supervision and experience hours required to obtain advance licensure.

An LMFT-A (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate) has graduated with a Master’s in counseling or related field and is working towards the advanced licensure LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist). An LMFT has passed a licensure exam and completed the clinical supervision and experience hours required to obtain advance licensure. An LMFT specializes in couples and family work.


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