Questions About Therapy Part 2: What Are the Letters Behind My Therapist's Name?

One of the questions that we receive is what do all of the letters mean behind my therapist or counselors name and why are they important?

It can be confusing.  One of the most important reasons why it is important to know about the letters behind your therapists name is because it can be a resource for you.  The letters are not going to guarantee that the therapist is the right fit for you. However, understanding the letters can be helpful when you are making a decision about working with a therapist.  

In this post we are going to discuss the letters of most therapists in our offices in Owensboro and in Paducah, Kentucky.  We will talk about “extra” letters in a later post.

A licensed therapist in the state of Kentucky will have:

-at minimum of a Masters degree

-100’s of clinical hours throughout the masters program

-Passing a National Certification Exam

-Required to maintain continued education

-Governed by a state board

-Required to follow national and state regulations and ethics of practice

-many hours of practice under the direct supervision of an experienced and board approved licensed supervisor


Before we go on, let’s go over some words that are frequently used within the profession that you may be unfamiliar with.

Licensed and Practicing Under Supervision: this is a time period during which a newly licensed therapist is directly practicing with client but is seeking continual feedback from an experienced “supervisor”. (MFTA, LPCA, CSW)

Supervisor: an individual who is meeting weekly with the “supervisee” to regularly check in and offer clinical and ethical feedback during the supervision period. This individual is licensed and can practice without a licensure supervisor.  (LPCC, LCSW, LMFT etc).


LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

An LMFT is a licensed mental health professional who has focused education in working with families and couples.  Usually LMFT’s are trained in “systems.” What this means is that the whole “system” is the client for example the “family” or the “marriage” is the client not the individual.  Many LMFT’s also work with individuals if they have training and experience in doing so. So if you are looking for family or marriage counseling, based on the letters alone, this may be helpful.  MFTA’s are licensed therapists working under the supervision of an experienced supervisor.

LPCC: Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

An LPCC is a therapist who has completed a Master's degree in counseling from an accredited university, completed the required hours of practice under supervision and and passed the National Exam. This individual has completed all the necessary requirements by the state board to practice independently as a therapist. LPCC have training on diagnosing and treating mental health disorders of various types.  In many programs focused on Mental Health Counseling, future LPCC’s are trained on assessing, diagnosing and treating individual mental health issues. Many LPCC’s get additional training to work with couples and families in their practice as well. LPCA’s are licensed therapists working under the supervision of an experienced supervisor.

LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Worker

An LCSW is a therapist who has a Master’s degree in social work. In order to achieve this status individuals must pass National Licensure Exam administered by the Association of Social Work Boards. Then the individual must apply with the state board of where they will practice counseling in order to receive the title of Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  Typically LCSW educational programs also train therapists to work from an individual approach on assessing, diagnosing and treating mental health issues. LCSW’s are typically also trained in social work, which traditionally assesses the whole environment and access to support.  CSW’s are licensed therapists working under the supervision of an experienced supervisor.

Begin Counseling Today

All of the individuals above are licensed to practice clinical counseling/therapy in the state of Kentucky as a mental health professional.  This is not a complete list of credentials, if you have any questions about any specific letters behind a therapist name you can always ask the therapist, they will be happy to explain!  If you are looking for someone to help you on your path to change you can call our office at 270-777-4490 in Paducah or 270-215-4000 in Owensboro to set up an appointment with a therapist!