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What do all those letters mean anyway?!

What do all those letters mean anyway?!

by Spencer Lee, MSW Intern

You may have noticed that all of our therapists here at Stillpoint, or at any other location, have a slew of letters that follow their name. At Stillpoint, we have LCSWs, LCSWAs, MSW interns, MFT interns, LCMHCs, LCMHCAs, and LCASs. So, what do all those letters mean anyway?

These letters represent the clinical licensure a therapist holds. There are many different licenses that a therapist can choose to obtain. Some of these include: licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed clinical mental health counselor (LCMHC), licensed marriage family therapist (LMFT). And the list goes on. If you see an “A” on the end of the acronym, it stands for “associate”.  Associate licensure means the therapist has received their Master’s degree and met the criteria for associate licensure in their desired field. They remain under the supervision of a fully licensed therapist for the first year or two while receiving additional training in their area of specialty, before becoming fully licensed.

MSW Intern

This is a Master of Social Work student studying to become an LCSW. The Master’s program is 2 years long and includes 900 hours of clinical practice at an internship over the course of 18 months. Once the student graduates, they apply to be an LCSWA and work towards full licensure.


Once a therapist has their LCSWA, they obtain 3,000 hours of clinical experience over a 2 year time period. During these 2 years, they go through 100 hours of supervision by a fully licensed clinician. At the end of this supervisory period, LCSWAs take an exam and become fully licensed upon passing the exam. Both LCSWAs and LCSWs must acquire 40 hours of continuing education every two years. Clinical social workers are different from other licenses in that they focus on how outside factors such as socioeconomic status, relationships, faith, physical health, etc. contribute to a person’s mental health.


Licensed Marriage Family Therapist complete a Master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from an accredited university. Similar to other master level programs in mental health, marriage and family therapist are required to obtain over one thousand hours of clinical experience and two-hundred hours of supervision before becoming fully licensed. LMFTs education and training is from a systemic perspective, viewing problems of an individual in relation to the context in which people live.

MFT Intern

This is a Master of Marriage and Family Therapy student who has completed one year of course work and is in their second year of training. These students are required to complete 500 hours of therapy sessions. What makes MFT training unique is that a large percentage of their training must be working with couples and families in addition to seeing individuals. After graduation MFT students apply for LMFTA licensure.


Licensed Mental Health Counselors go through a similar process as clinical social workers. These individuals maintain their master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. Upon graduating from an accredited program, they obtain their LCMHCA to be provisionally licensed. Therapists become fully licensed after 3,000 hours of practice, 100 hours of supervision, and passing an exam. A mental health counselor focuses different areas of counseling such as cultural considerations, group counseling, career counseling and lifestyle development, assessments, and the history and processes behind therapy interventions.


Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist a licensure that specializes in addiction and substance use. The process of becoming a licensed clinical addiction specialist is similar to becoming another type of therapist- you take coursework related to substance use, and gain experience working with addiction through an internship and employment. It is common for those struggling with addiction to also face mental health concerns. For that reason, many LCASs choose to hold another license such as their LCSW or LCMHC which allows them to treat mental health in addition to addiction.


All these letters that follow a therapist’s name can get confusing, but they offer insight into the training and educational background of your therapist. No matter the licensure, all therapists are trained and committed to working with client’s personal goals for therapy.