Other Helping Professions

Marriage and family therapists primarily work on the relationships among family members. They may work with partners or family members individually, with both partners, or with the family as a whole. The goal of therapy usually involves changing the way members interact with each other and may involve role plays and coaching. Typically they are trained and licensed at the master’s degree level, although many licensed psychologists and professional counselors can work with couples and families if they have appropriate training.

Social workers view individual problems as resulting, in part, because of social problems such as poverty, unemployment, discrimination, and oppression. They identify personal and environmental factors that are not helping the individual and attempt to connect with more supportive individuals and services while addressing the broader social concerns. Social workers can be trained and licensed with a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Similar to professional counselors, psychologists can be trained in many specialties such as clinical, social, organizational, or counseling psychology. Generally, they are trained to diagnose pathology and prescribe corrective action. Counseling psychologists typically would diagnose an individual with a specific mental or emotional illness and then prescribe treatment via individual or group therapy. What distinguishes psychologists in general, and counseling psychologists in particular, from professional counselors is that one must earn a doctoral degree in psychology to be fully licensed.

Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors who do specialty postdoctoral training and residency in psychiatry. Similar to psychologists, they diagnose illness. In addition to prescribing therapy they can prescribe medication.

There are other individuals and groups who offer treatment for people with mental and emotional issues, such as psychiatric nurses and pastoral counselors. If it is your desire to become a licensed professional, make sure that your training is completed in a nationally accredited program and leads to a license to practice. So, you still might be asking, what makes a professional counselor special and unique?

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