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Credential Run Down

Are you just starting out on your journey of becoming a Behavioral Health Professional? Or…Are you looking for information on what type of therapist to hire for you or a client? If so, I  hope this information helps you plan and navigate your path. I know when I first got into the field, I had no idea what each grouping of letters represented and how far I had to go to get the letters I have today.

After a Bachelor’s degree you want to plan to pursue a graduate degree in the field. Once you graduate and pass the NY state boards you are qualified to list the specific letter grouping that applies to your profession after your name.

Since an array of mental health care is available in NYS- a good first step is to do your research to find a professional that can give insight into a specific problem while making sure you or a client you’re working with feels comfortable and has a sense of trust. Not to mention you want to find a professional who will be financially affordable, so that therapy can be a consistent part of the treatment plan.

So all in all…All of these the letters following a therapist’s name will tell you not only if their expertise is appropriate for handling a specific situation, the credentialing a therapist has will also determine their ability to receive insurance reimbursement for their services and what fee they will be paid.

Here are some credentials therapists in New York State may have:

LMHC-P: Has a Valid permit to practice Mental health Counseling. This individual has finished graduate school and could be working in the field while pursuing the licensure requirements for the state.

MHC: Mental Health Counselor- graduate degree obtained. Not licensed but, could be in pursuit of state permit.

LMHC: Licensed Mental Health Counselor.

MSW: Master’s in social work degree obtained.

LMSW, LCSW, or LCSW-R: Licensed Master Social Worker, Clinical Social Worker, or Licensed Master Clinical Social Worker “R”-LCSW Reimbursement: An LCSW is recognized in New York State as a reimbursable psychotherapist. … The “R” privilege requires insurance carriers to provide reimbursement for psychotherapy services whenever a health insurance contract includes reimbursement of qualified psychologists and psychiatrists

LCAT: Licensed Creative Arts Therapist

LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Private therapists can have a list of credentials after their name but must be licensed to provide mental health treatment in New York State in order to be lawfully and ethically practicing providers. A professional will verify that they are actively licensed by showing the “L” with their credential, and usually displays their license at their office.

Ed.D: Doctor of Education-You must hold a master’s degree in an education-related subject before applying to a doctoral program in education.

Licensed Psychologist/Ph.D or Psy.D: Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Psychology-A PsyD (Doctor of Psychology) degree generally use their psychology training to work with people seeking therapy. People who hold PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) degrees typically teach, conduct research, or consult professionally in mental health fields.

Psychiatrist: Medical doctor with additional training and specialization in mental health

NPP-C: Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

PMHNP: Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Special Note: The Admission Requirements for Psychology Ph.D. Programs: Minimum Education Level- Master’s degree, although a bachelor’s with work experience is often also acceptable.

What Credentials do you need to prescribe medications to a client?
A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has received additional training to specialize in the treatment of mental health problems. Psychiatrists primarily assess for, consult about and prescribe psychiatric medications. A psychiatrist will carry credentials DO or MD and will have New York State Licensure to be a practicing psychiatrist in the state.

Nurse Practitioners and Psychiatric Nurses may also specialize in treatment of psychiatric problems and can prescribe psychiatric medications under the supervision of a psychiatrist. A psychiatric nurse Practitioner will carry credentials NPP-C or PMHNP.

Private prescribers, (NPP-C and Psychiatrists) can be found by contacting your insurance company to find those that may be covered. Please note that some prescribers offer psychotherapy alongside medications and some offer medication-only treatment.

As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), I have specialized training in community mental health counseling. My Graduate program and internship training focused on clinical diagnosis, treatment planning and the delivery of mental health care for adults and children both individual and groups. My program also highlighted social justice, working within diverse community systems and the counselor’s role as an advocate for client best interest and care. My understanding of other licensed professionals comes mostly from working alongside them throughout my education and career journey. One thing that’s for sure is the special knowledge of each of these professionals depends on their own personal skill set, clinical experience and professional interests.

My advice after all this is to take your time when deciding what avenue to pursue in school. What is your end goal look like? Talk with an educational advisor for more information on the steps you should take. If you’re looking to advocate for a client or have a situation you need addressed try to look into what a few different professionals offer to find the best fit for you or your client. Behavioral Health isn’t a one size fits all service so be sure all your needs can be assessed.

Want to know if a provider is licensed in New York State or learn more about these professions? Check out New York State Office of Professions Website: