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What Are the Differences With an LMHC, LCSW, a Psychiatrist, a Psychologist and a Life Coach?

Dec 29, 2022

It is very easy to get confused by all the complex terms and titles in psychology and psychiatry. Often, the roles of an LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor), LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), Life Coach, Psychiatrist, and Psychologist can get mixed-up and require some explanation. Most of these roles require a significant degree of education and training and offer different expertise and techniques to diagnose and treat mental illness. Quite often, they compliment each other and work together throughout the process.

Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

An LMHC and an LCSW work in the field of mental health and provide counseling and therapy in a collaborative approach with individuals, couples, families, and groups to determine the best route for achieving the client’s goals and objectives. A skilled LMHC or LCSW clinician becomes highly attuned to the individual and adaptable to his/her decision-making process.

LMHCs have access to a very broad field of potential models and methods for mental health therapies and often provide a more flexible outlook on methodologies than social work or psychology. LMHCs may specialize in specific areas of mental health, such as addiction, trauma , or eating disorders. LCSWs may also work with communities and organizations to address social issues and advocate for policy change. They may specialize in areas such as child welfare, gerontology, or healthcare. It is this flexibility in methods and practice for both LMHCs and LCSWs that many find appealing when weighing their options between professional counseling and other occupations in mental health therapy.

The primary method employed by LMHCs and LCSWs is working with the client to first establish rapport and understanding of the client’s situation, and then to develop a series of interventions that involve concrete ways in which problems in the client’s life can be resolved, usually through refining and changing the client’s decision making process. In most cases LMHCs work with the client on a primarily internal and individual level ensuring the client’s focus is on what they can do within their life to change things. This is a major difference from social work (LCSW), wherein an analysis of the client’s economic and societal situation, as well as their current home environment, plays a substantial role in the therapy.

The Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Licensed Clinical Social Worker are protected titles, as it requires a significant degree of education as well as training. The roles usually require a minimum of a master’s degree in counseling, along with post-graduate supervised experience. These requirements may include completing a certain number of hours of clinical experience and passing a licensure exam, specific requirements for licensure may vary by state.

For instance, in order to earn a Masters in Mental Health Counseling, an LMHC in Florida has to:

-Take coursework from 60 credit hours, (20 courses ) from an accredited CACREP institution-Do at least 1,000 hours of a clinical internship, involving 3 semesters of clinical field experience and-Successful completion of the Comprehensive Final Examination.

After graduating, a candidate needs to:

-Register as an LMHC intern and conduct 1500 hours of session time with clients over a period of 100 weeks, meeting with a licensed supervisor biweekly.

-Pass the National Clinical Mental Health Counselor Exam (NCMHCE)

-Pass the Florida Rules and Laws Course, HIV/AIDS Course, and Domestic Violence Course.

As a licensed practitioner, an LMHC is required to do 30 continuing education hours every biennium, including the above courses again.

Due to the stringent licensure requirements and upkeep, it reminds both LMHCs and LCSWs to adhere to high standards regarding ethics and confidentiality as provided by the state board, usually involving signing an ethics pledge or oath.

Life Coach

A life coach is a professional who helps individuals set and achieve goals in various areas of their lives, such as career, personal development, and wellness. Life coaches typically work with clients through one-on-one sessions or group coaching programs, using techniques such as goal-setting, accountability, and support to help clients achieve their desired outcomes. Life coaches may have a variety of educational backgrounds and may not necessarily have formal training in mental health. For this reason, they typically do not address mental health concerns and focus only on helping clients achieve specific goals in other areas of their lives. Life coaches may not be licensed or regulated by a professional board.

Overall, life coaches, LMHCs , and LCSWs may all work with individuals to help them achieve their goals and make positive changes in their lives. LMHCs and LCSWs work on finding the root cause of issues so in session they typically push to unpack things from one’s past. Life coaches work with only the present day individual and help them move forward.


A qualified psychologist will have a degree in the field of psychology and often may also have undertaken advanced studies and received higher qualifications such as a doctorate, or PhD. A main difference between psychologists and psychiatrists is that psychologists are not medical doctors and therefore cannot prescribe medication.Many psychologists choose to focus on testing or do research on specialty topics that interest them, either as a member of faculty for a higher education facility, or along with their peers and colleagues. Some practitioners might also use psychotherapy – otherwise known as talk therapy – to help patients, much like the LMHC or LCSW. This can effectively treat emotional and mental suffering using behavioral intervention techniques.


A psychiatrist is a qualified medical doctor, otherwise known as a physician, who has chosen to specialize in the field of psychiatry. Psychiatry is defined as the branch of medicine that is devoted to the diagnosis, prevention, study, and treatment of various mental disorders. Unlike psychologists, psychiatrists are medically trained and qualified practitioners of medicine, who must critically evaluate each patient in order to determine whether their symptoms are the result of a physical affliction to the body, a combination of physical and mental ailments, or solely psychiatric disorders. Unlike a psychologist, they can then prescribe medication to treat the condition or illness. A psychiatrist will often work as the medical leader of a multi-faceted team in order to successfully treat a patient. This team will likely comprise of mental health counselors, psychologists, nursing staff, and occupational therapists. Psychiatrists have undergone a wide range of medical training in order to provide a comprehensive biological, psychological, and social approach to assessment, diagnosis, and management of mental illness.

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