Tips for Choosing a Psychotherapist:
Deciphering the Degrees

By considering a prospective therapist's credentials along with the particular license they possess, you may be able to determine the amount and kind of academic training and experience they have had.

Pyschologists can hold doctorates in either philosophy (Ph.D.), psychology (Psy.D.), or education (Ed.D.). Typically they have completed four or more years of graduate school and are all eligible for licensing. However, only those who have been licensed can call themselves psychologists. There are many Ph.D.'s from other related or unrelated academic fields who still practice therapy without being licensed or clinically trained. Psychologists can also specialize in a wide variety of non-clinical practice areas, including statistical research, industrial psychology, or diagnostic testing and evaluations.

Licensed Clincial Social Workers (LCSW), Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT), and Professional Counselors (LPC) have typically graduated with a master's degree from a two year graduate school. Some may also have gone on for a doctoral degree beyond the master's degree:

  • Social workers may also have other credentials: B.S.W. (Bachelor's of Social Work), M.S.W. (Master's of Social Work), A.C.S.W. (Academy of Certified Social Workers; a 2 yr post graduate national credential), BCD (Board Certified Diplomate; 5 yr post graduate credential) or DCSW (Diplomate of Clinical Social Work; 5 yr post graduate credential). Social workers can also be licensed as an LSW (Licensed Social Worker) when trained to specialize in a variety of non clinical practice areas, for example, community organization and development, or administrative management.
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and Licensed Professional Counselors have other Master's degrees such as: M.A. (Master of Arts), M.S. (Master of Science) or M.Ed. (Master of Education). Marriage and Family Therapists have specialized training in the area of family systems while Professional Counselors may have a variety of more generalized training in the area of psychology and counseling.

The Mental Health Licensing Section of the Division of Registrations regulates the practice of licensed or registered persons in the field of psychotherapy. As to the regulatory requirements applicable to mental health professionals:

  • A Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a Licensed Professional Counselor must hold a masters degree in their profession and have two years of post-masters supervision.
  • A Licensed Psychologist must hold a doctorate degree in psychology and have one year of post-doctoral supervision.
  • A Licensed Social Worker must hold a masters degree in social work.
  • A Psychologist Candidate, a Marriage and Family Therapist Candidate, and a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate must hold the necessary licensing degree and be in the process of completing the required supervision for licensure.
  • A Certified Addiction Counselor I (CAC I) must be a high school graduate, and complete required training hours and 1,000 hours of supervised experience. A CAC II must complete additional required training hours and 2,000 hours of supervised experience. A CAC III must have a bachelors degree in behavioral health, and complete additional required training hours and 2,000 hours of supervised experience. A Licensed Addiction Counselor must have a clinical masters degree and meet the CAC III requirements.
  • A registered psychotherapist is a psychotherapist listed in the State's database and is authorized by law to practice psychotherapy in Colorado but is not licensed by the state and is not required to satisfy any standardized educational or testing requirements to obtain a registration from the state.