Category Archives: Therapy

Understanding the Benefits of Marriage and Family Therapy

What are the differences between a LMFT, LPC, and LCSW in Virginia?

Emerging research in neuroscience and mental health suggests that relationships are the most  significant factor in personal well being.  Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) are mental health/behavioral health practitioners who give primary consideration to the interpersonal context and to significant relationships in people’s lives.  This is often referred to as having a systemic theoretical orientation or practicing relational therapy.

LMFTs have specific and in-depth training in understanding and facilitating development and change in relationships.  LMFTs work with individuals, couples, families, groups and organizations to explore and clarify patterns of communication, interaction and behavior.  LMFTs work with people and systems to change existing patterns that have not been working in order to effect more positive changes in thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and mental health.  LMFTs provide psychotherapy as independent practitioners or in association with agencies.

Other mental health professions tend to focus upon the individual as the source of problems as well as the object of intervention or treatment.  These professions include:  Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC), Licensed Clinical Psychologists (LCP), and Psychiatrists.  This approach, which has been helpful for many, is also prominent with popular psychology and self-help sources.

A LMFT who has taken the step of becoming a Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy will seek to understand the difficulties or problems from an interpersonal perspective.  They will provide systemic interventions, even when working with one person from a couple or from a family.

Each of the behavioral health professions licensed in Virginia holds a professional license based upon somewhat different educational and supervised work experience requirements.  A minimum of a master’s degree in their discipline is required for a LMFT, LPC and LCSW.  There is also a requirement for supervised practice for a period of two years after graduation.  A minimum of a doctoral degree in clinical psychology is required for a LCP as well as a period of supervised residency.  LCPs also provide psychotherapy, and additionally conduct psychological assessment and have expertise working with people experiencing serious mental illness.  Psychiatrists are first trained as medical doctors and then complete a residency in psychiatry.

The Virginia Board of Counseling  is the regulatory body for both Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) and Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC).  For licensing requirements of other mental health professions, please go to the Virginia Department of Health Professions and navigate to the respective board for each profession.