In California, there exists Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Psychologists, Psychiatrists, Life Coaches. Learning all these different providers can start to feel like you’re taking a General Education course that has been forced upon you in undergrad. Don’t worry; I too, remember what undergrad was like so I have created a cheat sheet for you.
Please be advised that this is a VERY brief and basic understanding of the differences between these credentials. There are mixed levels of skills and qualifications within the field and therapists are able to specialize skills with additional training and education. With any professional work, there is a difference between training and practice. There are also great variety between different institutions and the focus of their programs. The best way to find out if a therapist is a good fit for you is to meet with them for at least 3-4 sessions. If their academic training and experiences matter to you, ask specific questions. An ethical therapist will refer you to someone who is more knowledgeable, if they are not qualified to work with a specific issue. However, training and education doesn’t necessarily mean a perfect match, professional style and personality differences also matter. I hope this helps fill in some questions you may have about your potential therapist.
I intentionally did not include associate/intern level therapists, as they exist within each of these credentials. As associates/interns, most are required to earn their minimum training hours/years before they can sit for their board exams and become licensed. For more details about these credentials (and many more) please visit: http://marriagefamilychildtherapyredding.com/types-of-mental-health-professionals.html