Different Types of Therapists – Which one is right for me?

different types of therapists

Finding the right therapist is hard enough without being confused by all these abbreviations! Don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you. We created a list of different types of therapists to help inform you. Getting familiar with what type of counselor is right for you can help ease off some of the anxiety and stress of the therapist search. What’s even better than reading about the different types? Talking to an actual person about it! I highly recommend giving us a call so our administrative assistant can answer any questions and guide you through your journey. We also offer communication through phone calls, text messages, and e-mails. I’m partial to phone calls so I can get that comfort of a warm voice! Our administrative assistant can also talk you through which therapist would be the best fit for you!

What is an LMFT?

LMFT stands for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and it is when a therapist is fully licensed, no longer in school, and no longer being overseen in their work, such as an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. This type of therapist has their master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. They have literally thousands of required hours of training and sessions with clients to meet the state of California requirements to be licensed. LMFT’s have passed the final board exam in the state of California required to achieve licensure. They will typically charge more per session than an Associate, because their level of training, expertise, and time spent working towards licensure warrants it. All of this basically boils down to one point: these therapists are highly trained, and they really know their stuff! 

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists are trained in, and can work with, many different populations and diagnoses. They can work with individuals, couples, families, groups, children, and teens! LMFT’s view problems within the context of systems and relationships, and the greater context that individuals exist within. They also can work with a variety of issues, including depression, anxiety, grief, trauma, addiction, mood disorders, and so much more. This degree, and the training required to become licensed, makes Marriage and Family Therapists very versatile in what they are able to work with, and well versed in a variety of issues. 

types of therapists lmft

What’s so great about this license is that folks are able to specialize in what they are passionate about and receive extra training in a specific area. For example, some LMFT’s love working with couples, and others have specific training in and only work with children. 

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

 LCSW stands for Licensed Clinical Social Worker. A LCSW has a graduate degree in social work. Therapists with this title have also passed a state or national exam to become licensed. Just like LMFT’s, these types of therapists have to complete thousands of hours of experience, and are supervised by a trained licensed professional throughout their associateship. This amount varies depending on the state they live in. LCSWs practice psychotherapy, and can help you with mental health issues that get in the way of your everyday life, search for deeper meaning, heal from trauma or attachment injuries, strengthen relationships, and more. A LCSW has studied things like sociology, social work, human behavior, growth and development. 

Just like their LMFT counterparts, having further training and more time in the field means LCSW’s can specialize in what they are passionate about. They can also focus on diversification over specializations and amass knowledge and experience with a variety of topics. The LCSWs at our practice have experience working with adolescents and adults, in intensive outpatient and private practice settings. Their experience includes individual therapy, group therapy, couples therapy, and family therapy. Whether you are looking for understanding yourself more deeply, your emotions, your partner, or your family, you’re in good hands with one of our LCSW clinicians!

What is an AMFT?

Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT) was previously called an “Intern.” The term was recently changed in January 2018 to Associate thankfully, because that more accurately represents the level of experience and training these therapists have. An AMFT already has their master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and are required to have a minimum of 300-500 clinical counseling hours before they even graduate from college. Many AMFTs have a couple thousand hours under their belt! AMFTs need 3000 hours before they can apply to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

Associate Marriage and Family Therapists must be approved by the Board of Behavioral Sciences and are required to have weekly supervision meetings. During the supervision training, they will review each case with their supervisor, gain education and training from their supervisor, and discuss the ethics and legal issues of being a therapist. They also attend outside seminars and trainings to help inform their work and stay up-to-date on the current research. The great thing about working with an Associate is that you not only get help from that therapist, but your case is reviewed by the supervisor. Basically, you get the minds of two therapists at the cost of one therapist! 

Like their more experienced counterparts, this type of therapist takes into consideration relationships and the context of systems to inform their work. AMFTs work with an array of issues and dynamics – individuals, couples, families, and children/teens. AMFTs work with a variety of issues. They even gear their supervision and trainings to ensure they are well versed in a plethora of topics. These issues include resolving conflict, improving communication, increasing intimacy, and recovering and repairing after an affair for couples. As well as individual issues including addiction, anxiety, stress, eating disorders, body image. life transitions, depression, and so much more!types of therapists amft apcc

What is an APCC?

Associate Professional Clinical Counselors are similar to Associate Marriage and Family Therapists. They work to provide help, guidance, and resources to a wide range of populations, similar to AMFTs. They have a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, and are en route to becoming a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). As a regulated profession in healthcare, mental health counselors pursue state-specific licensure to become an autonomous professional. To achieve LPCC licensure in California, there are several requirements. First, mental health counselors are generally required to spend 2 to 3 years in graduate school. This is followed by 3,000 clinical hours of being supervised on the job by a licensed mental health professional. The purpose of this supervision is to ensure you are getting the best support and guidance possible by having an extra brain from experienced professionals. Then, they need to pass state board examinations to achieve licensure.

Clinical mental health counselors are specifically trained to diagnose and treat children, adolescents, and adults struggling with mental health. This can be in regards to depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties, stress, addiction, suffering from abuse or neglect, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. Counselors may work in many different settings. 

We recommend checking out our team here to see what our therapists specialize in, and how we can support you in finding the right fit of a therapist for you! You can also call or text our main line at (619)558-0001 and our wonderful admin assistant can help you find a therapist who would be a good fit for what you are looking for. 

Here is a break down of some other terms you may have found during your search for a therapist!


A psychologist has a Doctorate degree in psychology. Psychologists are educated to deal with mental illness, behavior problems, and diseases of the brain. They are trained specifically in patterns of human behavior and how the brain works under different emotions and conditions. A psychologist must go to school for between five and seven years to get their Doctorate. This usually includes conducting their own research and taking an internship. A psychologist can work with either individuals, couples, children, or families.


A psychiatrist goes to medical school and gets their M.D. They are trained to diagnose and assess mental illness. Psychiatrists they are allowed to prescribe medication because they are medical doctors. A psychiatrist has gone to school for formal training. Then they completed a residency at a medical practice or hospital before they are fully licensed. Many psychiatrists are specialized in one particular area, such as children or addiction. Psychiatrists look at things from disease, behavior, personality, and life experience perspectives.

Life Coach

A life coach is not a therapist. They are not required to have any formal training, and they are not allowed to diagnose or treat mental illness. Instead, a life coach is there to help you figure out what your goals are in life and then stay on track to meet them. A life coach doesn’t necessarily help you deal with your past. They are just there to keep you motivated to achieve goals like education or finding a new job.

Call or text us at Estes Therapy

Call us at 619-558-0001 today to get started on the process. Trying to find out what might be some of the blocks keeping you from finding a partner can make a big difference.

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Sarah O'Leary

I am captivated most by the importance of relationships and emotions and how they impact our everyday lives. Both relationships and our emotions help shape who we are as a person. "Relationship" doesn't just mean partner, but rather connections of all kinds. This means everything from strangers, to friends, to partners, and most importantly, the relationship you have with yourself. Emotions are what underlies our thoughts and behaviors, they are the key to understanding ourselves.