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Types of Psychotherapists (Licenses)


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Peter Strisik, Ph.D.
Suzanne Strisik, Ph.D.
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A license to practice in the mental health field indicates that the state of Alaska has verified that a practitioner has completed a professional training program, has completed a period of supervised experience, and has passed a formal examination in their specific profession.  While a license is not a guarantee that the practitioner is ethical and competent, it does increase the likelihood that they are, requires continuing professional education, and provides some oversight to the professional's practice.  In Alaska a person can offer services that resemble counseling without a license, but not psychotherapy and cannot use the title "Psychotherapist" or "Psychologist." 

Listed below are the primary licenses for mental health practice.  These are brief summaries of the requirements involved.  The actual statutes that specify the requirements are quite complex and can be researched here.

Doctoral Level Licenses

Licensed Psychologist (Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D.)

Psychologists complete a master's degree then a doctoral degree in clinical, counseling, school, or industrial/organizational psychology, one year of pre-degree and one year of post-degree supervised experience, and pass a psychologistís licensing examination.  Psychologists' training emphasize understanding thought, emotion, and behavior, psychotherapy, psychological testing, and research.

Psychiatrist (M.D. or D.O.)

Psychiatrists first become licensed medical doctors.  Additionally, they must complete a three-year residency program in psychiatric medicine.  Psychiatrists' training emphasizes the biological basis of thought, emotion, and behavior.  Psychiatrists can prescribe medication.  In recent years, psychiatrists have moved more towards working more with medication than psychotherapy, though many psychiatrists still offer psychotherapy along with medication services.

Masters Level Licenses

Advanced Nurse Practitioner (A.N.P.)

Advanced Nurse Practitioners complete a two-year masterís degree in nursing, complete a supervised clinical and psychotherapy training internship as part of the degree program, and pass a certifying examination.  Not all advanced nurse practitioners have psychiatric training.  Most psychiatric advanced nurse practitioners offer both psychotherapy and medication services.

Licensed Psychological Associate (L.P.A.)

Psychological Associates complete a two-year master's degree in clinical or counseling psychology (M.A. or M.S.), two years of supervised post-degree experience, and pass a psychological associate's licensing examination.

Licensed Professional Counselor (L.P.C.)

Licensed Professional Counselors complete a two-year masterís degree in counseling or clinical psychology (M.A. or M.S.), two years of supervised post-degree experience, and pass a written professional counselorís examination.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (L.C.S.W.)

Licensed Clinical Social Workers complete a two-year masterís degree in social work (M.S.W.), two years of supervised post-degree experience, and pass a written social work examination.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (L.M.F.T.)

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists complete a two year masterís degree (M.A. or M.S.) with emphasis in family therapy, approximately two years of supervised post-degree experience, and pass a marriage and family therapist examination. While their training specializes in marriage and family therapy, they may also be qualified as individual therapists, and psychotherapists with other licenses may be qualified to conduct marriage and family therapy.

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