Psychologist vs MFT vs LPCC

by Ryokan College on February 2, 2012

Therapist and PatientThere can be quite a bit of confusion, when deciding which license to pursue. Should you go for a license in Marriage and Family Therapy or Professional Clinical Counseling? Should you become a psychologist? What is the difference between a psychologist and a therapist, and how do you choose?!

Licensed Psychologist

A psychologist is a social scientist who studies human behavior and mental process. They can work in a variety of settings; private practice, education, research, etc. Psychologists are able to diagnose and treat mental disorders and determine what is best for a client’s care. Psychologists must have a doctorate in order to become licensed, which can be between 4-7 years of graduate study. A doctorate can be in the form of a PhD (a doctor of philosophy; more research based) or a PsyD (a doctor of psychology; more clinically based). In addition to their extensive education, psychologists must complete 3,000+ hours of supervised experience before they can take the EPPP and other licensing exams. Psychologists tend to receive more training in testing and assessment.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs) are relationship specialists who are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat individuals, couples, children, and families. MFTs must obtain a Master’s degree in a qualifying subject, such as Counseling Psychology before becoming licensed. Much like a psychologist, a MFT must complete 3,000+ hours of supervised experience before they can sit for their licensure exams. A therapist’s role is to help patients clarify goals and feelings in order to solve problems in relationships or other situations in their lives. Therapists provide support and guidance, while helping patients make effective decisions. MFTs receive extensive training in counseling using a variety of therapeutic orientations. MFTs receive more training in group therapy and support groups, but rarely using testing and assessment techniques in their regular practice.

Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

Professional Clinical Counselors (PCCs) are very similar to MFTs. While MFTs were not recognized in all states until just recently, LPCCs have been recognized as the most common form of therapist or counselor in the United States. In order to become licensed, individuals will need the same amount of education and supervised experience as that of an MFT. LPCCs generally have more vocational counseling and rehabilitation experience and less child and family counseling experience, which will change the scope of practice they have. This mostly depends on the curriculum they have while earning their Master’s degree and is not going to be necessarily true for each practitioner.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Claudia Howard January 28, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Thank you for the simplified manner in which you differentiated between the three helping professions listed above. Ite really helps to see them compared side by side. I am currently a student in the Counseling/LPCC program at Loyola Marymount University – with a specilization in Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling, so the last sentence in the article really speaks to me. Our program is structured in such a way that it provides students with the foundation to become complete/competent mental health professionals (not only in a vocational or rehabilitative setting) and instills a drive for advocacy. The curriculum definitely impacts the potential scope fo practice!


shirle armstead February 20, 2014 at 7:57 am

Will will the Career Development and Theory,and Researc Evaluation courses be offered again? And is it still offered on line?

shirle armstead


Ryokan College March 20, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Yes, the 8 week Career Development Course begins in April. Cost is $350


James Huddleston April 22, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Is Ryokan College accredited with the American Psychological Association? If not, why not?


Ryokan College May 6, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Dear James,

Good Question that we’re asked many times. Ryokan College is not accredited by the APA. We are a California State Approved School. To become APA accredited, a college must become regionally accredited (I don’t know why the APA doesn’t approved of nationally accredited schools though I suspect it concerns big education and politics). If Ryokan College became regionally accredited and APA approved, our tuition for the doctoral programs would go from $42,000 to $100,000. The average age of our students is 46. They cannot afford a large student debt. Yet, our quality is still there. From 2004-2011, we ranked 11 out of 302 schools that produced graduates who became licensed psychologists in California. By the way, 30% of all the schools who produce licensed psychologists in California are not APA approved.–Steve Arthur, President


KY May 23, 2014 at 10:12 pm

as far as MFT is concerned can you work in a mental hospital setting for that degree or ? and if so what if you currently have a bachelors degree in nursing would that affect how you can get the MFT degree?


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