15 thoughts on “What’s the difference between an MFT, an LPC (or LPCC), and an LCSW?

  1. In Idaho, the licensing requirements for LMFTs and LPCs are very similar. It is easier to become an LCSW here, so there are far more LCSWs than LMFTs here.

  2. You did a wonderful job of describing the differences between the fields. However, I would like to clarify one thing. As a current MFT intern in NC, my supervisor is required to be an approved AAMFT supervisor. Again, great article!

  3. Thank you for clearing this up for me! I’ve been trying to figure out the real difference between the professions to be sure I’m choosing the right grad school program. This explanation is so helpful!

  4. Hi Ben, thanks for this. I am wondering if you also know about transpersonal psychologists?

    I’m also wondering how much wiggle room there is for the individuality of a given LPCC of MFT to come through. For example, I am a student of astrology and would like to use that in my practice, but I don’t see that as being included explicitly in either profession.


  5. spot on! Given such a wide variety of forms of psychotherapy, your expanation has helped confirm that I am choosing the right methodolody best suited to my perspective. I move forward with greater confidence. Thank you!

  6. Thanks for this, Ben. I’ll be entering grad school this fall, pursuing my MA. I went with my gut on which program felt right for me, but your post will be helpful to be able to explain why LMFT is the path I chose rather than the LPC program at the school where I got my BS.

  7. @Legacy INS – I respectfully disagree, on multiple counts. First and most importantly, I don’t think those who advocate for us in DC are “in a battle;” indeed, we’re all cooperating quite well these days on a variety of measures, most notably MFTs and LPCs working together on Medicare inclusion.

    I also disagree that “we generally know the same thing,” and even find that a bit disrespectful to your peers. While none of us are better or worse than the other, and there is certainly overlap in job functions, each profession has a unique history, skill set, and body of knowledge. I *love* the different perspectives that LPCCs and LCSWs (and Psychologists too) bring to the table in a treatment team meeting, and if we all knew the same thing, then there wouldn’t be any benefit from those multiple perspectives. We know many of the same things, but we also know some different things, and that’s both good and important.

  8. Interesting. However,I would also like to add that LPCs provide Mental Health Counseling/Therapy as well as Wellness Counseling to ensure that communities remain healthy. The bottom line is all of us are employed by the same people and we all are responsible for doing what the employer asks. Although those who advocate for us in DC may be in a battle; in the field, we work together, learn from each other, care and support our clients…and despite variations in training, we generally know the same thing, take the same continuing education classes… The Master’s program can take 2-4 years to complete…working in the field together is how we spend the rest of our careers.

    Anonymous said…

    I just want to add that tho the LPC came from a school counsleing and career way back when, their main focus is now on Mental Health.

  9. I just want to add that tho the LPC came from a school counsleing and career way back when, their main focus is now on Mental Health.

    LPC in training.

  10. What is the difference between a COAMFTE-accredited program and license-eligible MFT programs? And what are the outcomes for each? Is one better than another?

  11. @chart – You have been told that both LCSWs and LPCs “do the same thing,” but presumably you now know better after reading this post, yes? 🙂

    Job market options and political clout in any given state are often a function of history (which group was licensed first, how many members of that profession are in the state, etc.). One reason why LCSWs are eligible for some jobs that LPCs and MFTs do not qualify for is that LCSWs are reimbursible through Medicare. MFTs and LPCs are working to correct that inequality.

  12. @jdaniel… I couldn’t agree with you more. This field is very confusing. I am also graduating May 2013 but with my Bachelor in Human Services. I want to become a therapist/counselor in Texas. However, I am at a loss with should I go on to get an LPC (Professional Counselor) or a LCSW (Clinical Social Worker). I am told they both do the same thing however the graduate classes are not the same. I am confused with how an LCSW can even counsel without important classes like Counseling Skills & Techniques, Psychopathology, Psychological Testing and Assessment and Counseling Methods. Where do they get their training from I just don’t understand. When I look at a Social Work degree program I am noticing a lot of theories on behavior and social issues, but where do they train on diagnosis and understanding the different counseling techniques. I am also confused as to why Social Workers are more marketable in the job market than LPC’s? Can someone help me understand this?

  13. This article has helped clear things up a bit for me. I’m a bachelor student graduating in May 2013 with a B.A. in Psychology Counseling. I’ve applied to many graduate schools all with slightly different degree descriptions and discipline focus. But every time I ask the question, “What degree/licensure/credentials do I need to be a therapist?” I get a bunch of ramblings with different abbreviations thrown in (M.A., M.S., LCSW, LPC, LCPC, LPCC, LFMT, etc…)and absolutely no clear answers. I realize it depends on the state, but come on! We must be able to narrow down the field a bit! We are going to have to become more specific to meet the demand, undoubtedly, coming with new healthcare laws. I want to be a therapist. Period. A multidisciplinary/generalist therapist. No one theory fits all clients, no one approach works with all individuals, no set of stats aptly represents all populations. From where I sit today I’m hoping to work with teen-mothers, Vocational/rehabilitation (CRC – there’s another one!) therapy, and become certified in addictions therapy as well. Do I believe that one set of initials should aptly prepare me to work with all three of these populations? Yes! I can totally understand having specialty areas, but as family practice MDs refer out to specialists, so would a generalist therapist refer out to a specialty therapist. I’ve applied to M.A. programs, M.S. programs, and MSW programs. (already accepted to Columbia University so far!) but I feel the end result should be the same; To counsel, focusing on the individual’s needs, whether that means discussing the past, present, and/or support systems and, obviously, connecting them with available resources as necessary.
    Does this sound daft? Am I missing something? Planning one’s future is difficult enough and all the semantics aren’t helping anything.

  14. @Vickie – Great suggestion! I’ll add that to my list of topics for future posts. In the meantime, if anyone wants to weigh in through the comments here about how these other professions would conceptualize, please do so!

  15. Thanks for this contribution, Ben. I am often asked about these differences as it can be quite confusing. You have done us all a favor. Now how about also explaining the psychiatric nurse practitioners, pastoral counselors, addictions counselors, chaplains, etc.

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