Training and Qualifications to Provide Mental Health Services

Mental health services may be provided by many different types of professionals such as social workers, therapists and psychologists. Anyone can advertise that they provide therapy, so savvy consumers should ask questions regarding degrees and licenses in the field.

PSYCHOLOGISTS: In order to use this title, the psychologist must have received a doctorate degree plus pass a state board exam consisting of both written and oral exams. Psychologists passing these exams then register with the board of psychology and receive a license. Psychologists are qualified to provide psychological testing which give more in-depth understanding of cognitive, neurological and emotional processing as well as therapy. Psychologists do not prescribe medications.

PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSISTANTS: Psychological assistants are psychologists in training and must be registered by the board of psychology. They provide limited psychological services under the direct supervision of a licensed psychologist or board-certified psychiatrist. Psychological assistants have a master’s degree in psychology and are usually in the process of earning supervised hours towards licensure.

PSYCHIATRISTS: A psychiatrist is a medical doctor licensed by the Medical Board of California. They have doctorate degrees in medicine and must board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Psychiatrists prescribe medication. Psychiatrists may also provide psychotherapy for their patients, but this is rare.

CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKERS: Social workers have earned a Master’s degree in Social work and completed a supervised internship. In addition, they must pass examinations to be board certified. Social workers who earn licenses by exams become Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW).

MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPISTS: Also known as MFTs, these professionals are licensed by the board of behavioral sciences. They have earned their master’s degree which requires a two year internship. They must also pass the Board’s written and oral examinations to become Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT).

EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGISTS: Licensed by the Board of Behavioral Sciences, Educational Psychologists must have master’s degrees and at least 3 years of experience as school psychologists. In addition, they are also required to pass a written exam. Educational psychologists may provide limited educational testing only and usually work in schools or private practice. Their services normally revolve around educational services.

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