What if I Hated Therapy? Pt 3.
In the first two entries for this blog, I discussed the different ways that therapeutic relationships can go awry and the common theoretical orientations that counselors adhere to. In this entry, I will spell out what all those initials at the end of therapists’ names mean as well as go over some payment and insurance information.
In a typical therapist ad (like one taken from Psychology Today), professionals will include information such as what specialties they focus on (i.e. depression, anxiety), specific training (EMDR, DBT), and treatment approach (theoretical orientation). Counselors will also usually include educational background, age focus (for example, some clinicians only see children), average cost of session, and accepted insurance plans. This is all super helpful information, but often just knowing how your counselor is licensed is useful to know. We indicate this license by the initials after our names.
Here is an alphabetical list of what the common initials after a therapist’s name mean (in Texas):
- LCDC: Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselors have master-level licenses and tend to focus on issues of substance use.
- LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Workers have master-level licenses and tend to focus more on issues in a social context (i.e. the effects of poverty and prejudice on identity).
- LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists have master-level licenses and specialize in seeing more families and couples in practice.
- LPC: Licensed Professional Counselors have master-level licenses and tend to focus on talk therapy in a variety of settings.
- LPC-Intern: Licensed Professional Counselor Interns have graduated with their master’s degree but are still completing 3,000 supervised hours before they are fully licensed. **This is my status!
- MD/Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health and prescribe medication. Most psychiatrists tend to prescribe medication rather than focus on talk therapy.
- NCC: National Certified Counselor is an additional certification that demonstrates that the counselor has met the national standards set by the counseling profession.
- PhD/PsyD/Psychologist: Psychologists are doctoral-level clinicians and have more training in psychological testing (such as formally testing for an ADHD diagnosis). (1); (3)
Sometimes therapists will use insurance to help you cover the cost of your sessions. This is something to consider when choosing a therapist as well. Here is a breakdown of pros and cons for using insurance:
Benefits of using insurance: It may cost less (co-payment only) to pay for sessions, or you may already be effectively paying for these services as part of your insurance package.
Risks of using insurance: To use insurance to cover a portion of the session fee, the company has to deem the service medically necessary. This means that there needs to be a mental health diagnosis on your record. The treatment plan itself must reflect how that diagnosis is best treated, which may or may not be most beneficial for why you originally came into therapy.
Another risk is that, in order to bill the insurance company, more people (insurance employees) have access to the fact that you are in counseling. In any case, your records can be subpoenaed by a court proceeding such as a divorce or custody hearing, so keep that in mind. (4)
If you do choose to use insurance to seek services, here are the major insurance companies and links to their website’s “find a doctor” function so that you can search for a provider near you:
If you choose to not use insurance, most clinics and practitioners will offer a “sliding scale” fee for services. Sliding scale fees are variable prices for services based on your ability to pay. Usually the fee goes down based on your income, so if you struggle paying the bills, the cut down may be significant. Therapists who are part of a large group practice or part of a hospital can generally afford to use sliding scales. (2)
Stay tuned for 2 more entries in this series in which I will discuss different ways or modalities to seek counseling and will wrap up the process of making informed decisions about choosing a counselor.
(1) Gressel, J. (2013). MD, Ph.D., LCSW, MFT: What do these letters mean for therapists and why should you care. Retrieved from: http://patch.com/california/pleasanthill/bp–md-phd-lcsw-mft-what-do-all-these-letters-mean-an8cfc2871ee
(2) Grohol, J. M. (2016). Finding low-cost psychotherapy. Retrieved from: http://psychcentral.com/lib/finding-low-cost-psychotherapy/
(3) National Board for Certified Counselors. (n.d.). Certification. Retrieved from: http://www.nbcc.org/certification
(4) NWA Center for Psychology. (n.d.). The pros and cons of using insurance for therapy. Retrieved from: http://nwacenterforpsychology.com/IntakeForms/Insuranace.pdf
If you’re interested in learning more, you can email me here and I’d be happy to answer any questions. I am accepting new clients in South Austin at this time, so I’d be happy to set up a free 30-minute consultation with you.
This blog was edited by Samantha Rice
Julia Stamman, M.S., LPC-Intern
Supervised by Ann Stoneson, LPC-S