What is a LMFT?

LMFT stands for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. The “L” is optional, but I like to include it to let people know that I am licensed. You may have seen the letters MFT before, and it means the same thing as LMFT, with the “licensed” part being assumed. (It’s illegal for unlicensed persons to use the MFT or LMFT designation.)

LMFTs (or MFTs) do much of the same work that other clinical psychotherapists do. All the different titles and abbreviations can get confusing, so here’s a list to help you understand the differences:

LMFT - Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

same as MFT

Works in private practice or in an agency or hospital to help individuals, couples, families, or groups deal effectively with psychological and relational difficulties. These professionals have additional training in relationship dynamics and family systems. See the definition below from the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) website.

MFT - Marriage and Family Therapist

same as LMFT

Works in private practice or in an agency or hospital to help individuals, couples, families, or groups deal effectively with psychological and relational difficulties. These professionals have additional training in relationship dynamics and family systems. See the definition below from the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) website.

LCSW - Licensed Clinical Social Worker

same as CSW

Works in private practice or in an agency or hospital to help individuals, couples, families, or groups deal effectively with psychological and relational difficulties. These professionals have additional training in social work that allows them to understand social programs and governmental systems that could be of use to clients.

CSW - Clinical Social Worker

same as LCSW

Works in private practice or in an agency or hospital to help individuals, couples, families, or groups deal effectively with psychological and relational difficulties. These professionals have additional training in social work that allows them to understand social programs and governmental systems that could be of use to clients.

MSW - Masters in Social Work

unlicensed

Works in agencies or hospitals to provide guidance to individuals and families through the government system. We often refer to MSWs simply as “social workers.” These professionals are the backbone of the social programs in this country, and can be relied upon to navigate “the system” in order to ensure that individuals in need get all the support and assistance available to them through the government.

LPCC - Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

Other states call it "LPC" or "LCPC"

Works in private practice or in an agency, hospital, or school to provide counseling to individuals, couples, families, or groups. LPCCs are a new license in California, and have a unique perspective on mental health primarily through the lens of human development.

Clinical Psychologist (Ph.D. or Psy.D.)

Works in private practice or in an agency or hospital to help individuals, couples, families, or groups deal effectively with psychological and relational difficulties. These professionals have additional academic training (a doctorate) that often means specialized training in a particular area. The Ph.D. or Psy.D. designation certifies them to administer psychological testing in addition to working one-on-one.

Psychiatrist (M.D.)

Works in private practice or in an agency or hospital to help individuals deal effectively with psychological difficulties by incorporating medication as a part of the overall treatment plan. Psychiatrists are the ONLY mental health professionals that can legally prescribe medication.

Taken from the CAMFT website:

“Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are relationship specialists who treat persons involved in interpersonal relationships. They are trained to assess, diagnose and treat individuals, couples, families and groups to achieve more adequate, satisfying and productive marriage, family and social adjustment. The practice also includes premarital counseling, child counseling, divorce or separation counseling and other relationship counseling. Marriage and Family Therapists are psychotherapists and healing arts practitioners licensed by the State of California. Requirements for licensure include a related doctoral or two-year master's degree, passage of a comprehensive written and oral examination and at least 3,000 hours of supervised experience.”

Basically, LMFTs (or MFTs) are psychotherapists who have specialized training in relationships. People who are involved in relationships of any kind—which is pretty much everyone—can come to an LMFT for help in understanding the dynamics of a relationship, their role in the relationship, what kind of issues from the past are affecting the relationship, how to enhance the relationship, or how to heal from a previously traumatic relationship. LMFTs don’t only work with couples and families—individuals can see an LMFT too. It's just that the LMFT folks believe that problems are better solved when the parties involved in the problem are all part of the solution.

LMFTs cannot prescribe medication.

LMFTs are mandated by the State of California to report suspected child, elder, or dependent abuse.

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