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What’s the difference between “counseling, ” “therapy” and “psychotherapy”?

For the most part, these three terms are interchangeable. They all refer to the process of speaking to a mental health professional to improve your life by addressing your social, emotional, and mental needs. “Therapy” is just a shortened version of “psychotherapy.” You can consider “counseling” as a professional relationship, while psychotherapy is the process that takes place within the relationship. All that being said, there’s no real difference worth dwelling on.

What is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) or a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT)?

In California, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and has completed at least 3,000 hours of required supervised clinical work experience. An LMFT has also passed the state-certified licensing exams. The California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) also requires 36 continuing education units every two years to maintain the license in good standing.

I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.  My LMFT number with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences is 119841.

What is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) or Registered Associate Professional Clinical Counselor (APCC)?

A Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and has completed at least 3,000 hours of required supervised clinical work experience. An LPCC has passed a National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam. The California Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS) also requires 36 continuing education units every two years to maintain the license in good standing. A Registered Associate Professional Clinical Counselor has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and is working on completing the required 3,000 hours of supervised clinical work experience before the licensing exam can be taken to become an LPCC.

What is the difference between Marriage and Family Therapy and Professional Clinical Counseling?

LMFTs and LPCCs have very similar education and licensing requirements. Practically, speaking there’s not a great deal of difference between the two.

For the most part, Marriage and Family Therapists — not surprisingly — focus on mental health issues as they relate to marriage and family. So, the LMFT will tend to view their clients’ issues through the perspective of marriage and family. Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor’s do not tend to have such a narrow focus. Rather, they tend to view their clients’ issues from the perspective of the client as they relate to the larger world around them, not focused on family and marriage.

I have completed the educational requirements to be licensed as both a Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. Once I complete the 3,000 hours of supervised clinical work for both, I intend to become licensed as an LMFT and LPCC.

Here are some technical definitions and rules about LMFTs and LPCCs. According to the California Board of Behavioral Sciences,

“the practice of marriage and family therapy shall mean that service performed with individuals, couples, or groups wherein interpersonal relationships are examined for the purpose of achieving more adequate, satisfying, and productive marriage and family adjustments. This practice includes relationship and premarriage counseling.

The application of marriage and family therapy principles and methods includes, but is not limited to, the use of applied psychotherapeutic techniques, to enable individuals to mature and grow within marriage and the family, the provision of explanations and interpretations of the psychosexual and psychosocial aspects of relationships, and the use, application, and integration of the coursework and training required by [California Business and Professions Code] Sections 4980.37, 4980.40, and 4980.41.”

California Business and Professions Code Section 4999.20 (a) states:

(1) “Professional clinical counseling” means the application of counseling interventions and psychotherapeutic techniques to identify and remediate cognitive, mental, and emotional issues, including personal growth, adjustment to disability, crisis intervention, and psychosocial and environmental problems, and the use, application, and integration of the coursework and training required by Sections 4999.32 and 4999.33. “Professional clinical counseling” includes conducting assessments for the purpose of establishing counseling goals and objectives to empower individuals to deal adequately with life situations, reduce stress, experience growth, change behavior, and make well-informed, rational decisions.

How do I choose which mental health professional is the best fit for me?

All California Licensed professionals (Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), LMFTs, LPCCs and Psychologists) are qualified to provide psychotherapy to individuals, couples and family groups. Each professional is likely trained in certain techniques and philosophies. Look for someone who has experience with your concern. Most important, be comfortable with the person you choose and be able to make a personal connection. The focus of therapy should be to help you become empowered and able to live the life you want. This will most likely require personal growth and stress reduction.

How long will therapy take?

That depends on you. Your therapy will last as long as you feel you are getting something useful out of our time together. You are in charge of how often you want to come and when you feel you have completed your therapy. You are always free to change your mind and return at any time you would like additional support.

What is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is known for its brevity. The process uses assessment, goals and progress throughout each session. This approach often significantly speeds up the therapeutic process. There is no standard time for treatment. When you’re done, you’re done. The therapist does not determine the length of your treatment. You do.

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a technique that can help re-balance your central nervous system so you can function better. EMDR is most often used for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and debilitating fears. It can help surpass the overwhelm and pain caused by rape, childhood physical or sexual abuse, accidents or losses. EMDR uses Bilateral Stimulation to activate both sides of your brain to unblock memories and allow the release of upsetting emotions. The reprocessing helps you to see the past without reliving it. Disturbing events are seen differently and no longer hold distressing or debilitating thoughts and feelings.

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