About Credentials

Psychotherapists who are licensed by the state of California have completed a professional training program, undergone a period of supervised experience, and passed a formal examination in a specific profession. Those who have not yet obtained licensure may practice psychotherapy under the supervision of a licensed professional. Therapists from all professional backgrounds may use a variety of techniques and have a variety of theoretical approaches. The nature of the professional degree or license does not determine the skill level, theoretical approach, or kinds of techniques a therapist might use. Below is a description of the different types of credentials a psychotherapist may have.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – has completed a two-year master’s degree (M.S.W.) or higher in social work, 3,200 hours of supervised experience, and passed the written social work examinations. They may be trained in a variety of therapeutic techniques and approaches and may perform social service functions other than psychotherapy. The license number issued by the Board of Behavioral Sciences will contain LCS followed by five to six digits. Some may have additional advanced-practice certification as a Board Certified Diplomate (BCD) by the American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work.

Associate Clinical Social Worker (ASW) – has completed a two-year master’s (M.S.W.) degree or higher in social work, and is in the process of obtaining the required 3,200 hours of supervised experience before taking the licensing examinations. A registered associate can be supervised by either a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed marriage and family therapist, a licensed professional clinical counselor, a licensed psychologist, or a board certified psychiatrist. The associate registration number issued by the Board of Behavioral Sciences will contain the letters ASW followed by five digits.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) – has completed a two-year master’s degree (M.A.) or higher in psychology or marriage and family therapy, 3,000 hours of supervised experience, and passed the written marriage and family therapist examinations. While their training specializes in interpersonal relationships, they are also qualified as individual therapists and may practice a variety of therapeutic techniques and approaches. The license number issued by the Board of Behavioral Sciences will contain the letters MFC followed by four to five digits. Note: Formerly known as Marriage, Family, and Child Counselor (MFCC).

Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern (MFT Intern) – has completed a two-year master’s degree (M.A.) or higher in psychology or marriage and family therapy, and is in the process of obtaining the required 3,000 hours of supervised experience before taking the licensing examinations. An intern can be supervised by either a licensed marriage and family therapist, a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed professional clinical counselor, a licensed psychologist, or a board certified psychiatrist. The intern registration number issued by the Board of Behavioral Sciences will contain the letters IMF followed by five digits. Note: Formerly known as MFCC Intern.

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) – has completed a two-year master’s degree (M.A.) or higher in clinical counseling or psychology, 3,000 hours of supervised experience, and passed the written professional clinical counselor examinations. Their training specializes in counseling interventions and psychotherapeutic techniques to improve mental health and may include career counseling and assessments to establish counseling goals. They do not treat couples or families unless they have additional training. The license number issued by the Board of Behavioral Sciences will contain the letters PCC followed by two to four digits.

Professional  Clinical Counselor Intern (PCC Intern) – has completed a two-year master’s degree (M.A.) or higher in psychology or marriage and family therapy, and is in the process of obtaining the required 3,000 hours of supervised experience before taking the licensing examinations. An intern can be supervised by either a licensed professional clinical counselor, a licensed marriage and family therapist, a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed psychologist, or a board certified psychiatrist. The intern registration number issued by the Board of Behavioral Sciences will contain the letters PCCI followed by two to four digits.

Licensed Psychologist – has completed a four-year doctoral degree in psychology (Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D), 3,000 hours of supervised experience, and passed written psychologist examinations. Psychologists may practice many different kinds of psychotherapy and are also trained to perform psychological testing. The license number issued by the California Board of Psychology will contain PSY followed by four to five digits.

Psychological Assistant – has completed a four-year doctoral degree in psychology (Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D), and is in the process of obtaining the required 3,000 hours of supervised experience before taking the licensing examinations. A psychological assistant can be supervised by either a licensed psychologist or a board certified psychiatrist. The registration number issued by the California Board of Psychology will contain the letters PSB followed by five digits.

Psychiatrist – has completed a four-year medical or osteopathic degree (M.D. or D.O.), one year of medical internship, three years of psychiatric residency, and passed a medical or osteopathic examination. Psychiatrists are licensed physicians specially trained in the biomedical aspects of emotional problems and mental illness and are authorized to prescribe medication. They may also practice psychotherapy. Some have additional certification by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. The license number issued by the Medical Board of California will contain the letter A, C, or G followed by up to eight digits.

Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) – is a registered nurse who has completed a two-year master’s degree (M.S. or M.S.N.) or higher in psychiatric and mental health nursing, has passed licensing exams, and holds certification as a CNS in psychiatric nursing from the State Board of Nursing. A Board Certified (BC) nurse has passed an exam from the American Nurses Credentialing Center that requires 500 supervised hours and advanced training in at least two modalities of psychotherapy, plus advanced coursework in health assessment, pharmacology and pathophysiology. The license number issued by the Board of Nursing will contain the letters RN, followed by six digits and a certificate as a CNS followed by three digits.

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