What is an LCSW, and what is the difference between an LCSW, LPC, Psychologist, and Psychiatrist?
I am often asked what, exactly, is an LCSW, and how am I qualified to be a psychotherapist? LCSW stands for Licensed Clinical Social Worker. An LCSW has the education and training of a Social Worker, as well as advanced training specifically in the delivery of mental health care and psychological services. To be credentialed as an LCSW, a practitioner must:
- Hold a minimum of a Masters degree in Social Work
- Complete a minimum of 2 years and 2000 hours of post-graduate on-the-job training, supervised by an LCSW with a minimum of 5 years of clinical experience
- Pass an exam to be licensed by their state Board
- Complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education annually
My training as a Social Worker allows me to bring a unique perspective to the process of therapy. Social Workers are trained to assess and treat the whole person versus focusing primarily on symptoms and illness, to look for and emphasize strengths and potential over diagnoses, and to maintain a belief that all people have an innate ability to heal and change their lives for the better.
LCSW’s, Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC’s), and Psychologists provide similar services, the main difference lies in their training. An LPC will also have a minimum of a Masters degree, but their licensure requires less hours of supervised post-graduate training than an LCSW. A Psychologist has earned a PhD or PsyD in psychology and has the ability to perform psychological testing in addition to providing therapy, although not all Psychologists offer psychological testing and evaluation. A Psychiatrist is an MD who is able to prescribe medication; some psychiatrists offer psychotherapy as well as medication evaluation and management, but most do not have the specialized training in counseling that is required by other disciplines.
I am happy to answer any additional questions you may have about my training and experience.
How does the process of therapy work?
Every therapist works differently, so this is only a description of what you can expect if you decide to engage in the process of therapy with me. Our work together will begin with a free phone consultation during which you can give a brief overview of why you are seeking help, I can answer any questions you have, and if you feel I may be a fit for you we will schedule an assessment session. During our first session, I will get to know you and ask you to share information about your personal history, and we will begin to establish a therapeutic relationship. Most people feel some level of apprehension about going to a first therapy session. This is completely normal, and part of my job in the early stages of therapy is to help you overcome any nervousness you are experiencing so that you can become more comfortable with the process of therapy; for most people, this usually happens in the first session or two as we are able to establish a positive connection. After we have completed the assessment process, typically 1-2 sessions for adults and 3-4 for children and teens, I will use the information you have provided about your history, the problems you are experiencing, and your goals for therapy to formulate a preliminary written treatment plan, which I will review with you to seek your feedback before finalizing the plan. At this point, we will agree on goals for therapy, treatment methods, and length of treatment. I invest a great deal of time and energy in these early sessions to individualize treatment plans to each client, so the process of therapy will vary for each individual person based on the treatment plan we agree is right for you.
What happens in a session?
The content of sessions varies between clients, and is highly individualized to your specific needs – the treatment plan that we create in the assessment phase will determine the structure of your sessions. Some clients prefer a brief, structured approach to therapy in which our sessions follow a well defined schedule for learning new coping skills and ways of managing symptoms. Others are more comfortable with a relational talk therapy approach in which we make meaning of why problems and symptoms are surfacing and aim to heal underlying root causes. Most people are best helped by an approach that integrates these methods and is relational in nature.
How long does it take to finish therapy?
The length of treatment varies depending upon the nature of your problem and your goals. Creating a parenting plan or processing an acute problem can be completed in as few as 4-6 sessions. If your desire is to identify triggers and learn specific coping skills for managing anxiety or relieving depression, this typically occurs over 12-20 sessions, or 3-4 months. Processing significant experiences or traumas from your past, changing long-term negative patterns of thinking or relating, and healing underlying root causes of symptoms can take anywhere from 6 months to a year or more. It may be helpful for you to think through what you most want to accomplish in therapy, and that will help us decide on a length of treatment. Even if 6 months or more of therapy would be ideal, I often work with clients who have constraints that limit our time together, and we are able to accomplish a great deal in a shorter time frame.
What do you specialize in?
When I first began working as a therapist, I specialized in working with very young children who had experienced trauma. Over the past 20 years, as I have gained experience working in a variety of settings with very diverse groups of people, I have found that my earliest work experiences with very young children overcoming complex problems has helped me to understand a wide range of issues. The brain is developing most rapidly in the first 5 years of life, and the foundation of personality is laid during this time as well – working with young children taught me a great deal about the root causes of symptoms and struggles in adolescents and adults. As my work experience eventually expanded to include treating teens and adults as well as children, I discovered I was easily able to understand how their personal history and early developmental experiences shaped their personalities and perspectives.
Over the past 20 years I have gained experience working with children, adolescents, and adults experiencing problems ranging from trauma, to difficult life transitions, to personality or mood disorders, and beyond. My training and experience enables me to work with a variety of ages and treat an array of issues. What sets my practice apart from many other therapists is my focus on individualized and integrative treatment. Rather than focusing on a single problem or approach, I specialize in conducting a thorough assessment of your problems, needs, and goals, resulting in a highly individualized treatment plan that integrates different approaches to therapy and different professionals who can work together as a team on your behalf. I most often use this model to work with:
- children with emotional or behavioral problems
- adolescents struggling with anxiety, depression, identity issues, relational difficulties, or suicidal thoughts
- adults experiencing anxiety, depression, past or present trauma, difficult life transitions, or grieving a loss
- families seeking support to improve communication or enhance parenting skills
I also maintain a network of trusted professional colleagues, and if ever one of these professionals is more suited to a particular problem then I am, I do not hesitate to refer. You are welcome to contact me for a free consultation to find out how I can help with your specific issue, and if I am not the best fit for you, I will do my best to offer referrals to another professional.
Is it important to have a connection with my therapist?
Research shows that, regardless of treatment methods used, the most significant factor in a successful course of therapy is a positive relationship between therapist and client. It is essential that you pick a professional with whom you feel comfortable and connected. I most often connect easily with clients and have success forming a strong working relationship in our earliest sessions; nonetheless, not every therapist and client is the right fit, and if you are not completely comfortable working with me, I will try to connect you with another therapist who is right for you.
How do I know if you are the right therapist for me?
Call and let’s talk. I offer a free 30 minute phone consultation so that you can get a feel for who I am and how I work before you commit time or money to a session.