top of page

Finding The Right Therapist: What Do Those Letters Mean!?

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

(Just want the list to see what the letters mean? Skip to the bottom!)

Thanks to my therapist for sending me this information! It's really helpful since different letter combinations can vary depending on what industry or topic you may be referring to. Saved me a lot of headaches! Let's keep in mind that I am taking these from a list of what we use here in Colorado, United States. I'm pretty sure these should be the same if not similar across the US in all states.

There are varying levels of psychotherapy and their regulation by keeping an eye on licensing, certification, and registration. Each level required passing an examination.

Some states have a list of those that provide services but do not have formal training. They are registered with the state but may not have credentials. These generally have the people that may call themselves a "life coach" or just a general "therapist". When registered, they will have an R.P. after their name for Registered Psychotherapist.

First, we will cover CAC levels 1 through 3. These are Certified Addictions Counselors with up to three levels. (CAC I) Level 1 requires a high school diploma or a GED, completed training hours, and have 1000 hours of supervised experience. (CAC II) Level two must have level one complete, acquired additional training hours, 2000 additional hours of supervised experience, and pass a national exam. (CAC III) Level three must have completed level two, a bachelor's degree in behavioral health, complete additional training hours, 2000 more hours of supervised experience, and pass a national exam.

The last level of becoming an Addictions Counselor comes at the licensed level. After completing all of the CAC levels (CAC I, CAC II, and CAC III) and after they have obtained a Clinical Master's Degree, they are able to attempt for the (LAC) Licensed Addictions Counselor level.

For more about CAC and LAC levels, you can check out this link here.

A very common combination of letters is MSW which stands for Master of Social Work. They have to hold a master's degree from a graduate school of social work and then pass an examination on what they studied.

Next down the line is LCSW which stands for a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. They have to have a master's degree or a doctorate degree from a graduate school of social work. They also have to have practiced as a social worker for at least two years and then pass an examination on social work.

There is an in-between title where "candidate" is attached to their title. Such as a Marriage and Family Therapist Candidate, a Psychologist Candidate, and a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate as examples. This just means that they hold the necessary licensing degree and are in the process of completing the required supervision for licensure.

Once licensed, a LMFT will show that they are now Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. They can hold a master's or doctoral degree in marriage and family counseling, must have at least two years post-master's or one-year post-doctoral practice. So either two years practicing after getting their master's degree or one year of practicing after their doctoral degree. They also will have to pass the exam in marriage and family therapy.

(LPC) Licensed Professional Counselor/ (LCPC) Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor / (LPCC) Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor / (LMHC) Licensed Mental Health Counselor all require the same thing: must be licensed by the state, hold a master's degree, complete a number of post-degree training hours under supervision, and finish it all off with a licensing exam.

One I never have come across before (personally) is the NCC or National Certified Counselor. This person must have a master's degree, post-degree supervision, and pass the national counselor exam which is a nationwide credential and consistent in each state.

If you want a more in-depth list of academic degrees, and licenses, and certifications list, check out Network There are many more abbreviations that could follow a professional's name which may not be found here. I just wanted to go over the more common ones that will be found.

For those wanting to see the quick list:

CAC- Certified Addictions Counselor

LAC- Licensed Addictions Counselor

LCPC- Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

LCSW- Licensed Clinical Social Worker

LMFT- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

LMHC- Licensed Mental Health Counselor

LPC- Licensed Professional Counselor

LPCC- Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

MSW- Masters of Social Work

NCC- National Certified Counselor

Hope this helps! Have you heard or found other certification letter combinations? Let us know!




Thanks for stopping by!

bottom of page