Clinical Psychologist vs LCSW vs LMFT:
Where to go in Indianapolis

Trying to find help for anxiety, depression, or another mental health concern? As you begin to research, it may feel like you are swimming around in an alphabet soup:  LCSW, LMHC, LMFT, Ph.D, PsyD (Clinical Psychologist)-  what does it all mean?


In this article, you’re going to learn how to locate the mental health professional in Indianapolis that is right for you!


How do I distinguish between the mental health professions?

Clinical psychologists (Ph.D.’s, Psy.D.’s), Social Workers (LCSWs), Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs), and Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) are mental health professionals and all are commonly referred to as “therapists.”

All therapists are trained and qualified to:

  • make mental health diagnoses
  • assess and treat clients with a range of problems
  • work with individuals that have a severe mental illness
  • support a person’s day-to-day lives and their overall mental wellness
  • create an open, collaborative environment to discuss experiences and emotions

Ultimately, clinical psychologists, LCSWs, LMFTs, & LMHCs are all trained to work with you to achieve your unique therapeutic goals.  


However, therapists are not medical doctors and cannot prescribe medications.


There can be lots of confusion about what the different mental health disciplines can and can’t do!  It varies from state to state, adding to the confusion! 

Therefore, please keep in mind, the information above is specific to the state of Indiana. 

What type of therapist is the right fit for you?

Research has consistently shown what matters most is your connection with the therapist!  

It's true! A plethora of studies have found that the therapeutic relationship is a huge predictor of achieving your goals!


Therefore, to get the most out of counseling, it is essential to feel that you connect well and trust your therapist. 


What makes a connected therapeutic relationship?  


Keep these factors in mind:

  • You feel comfortable with your therapist
  • You feel safe enough to open up about yourself
  • You believe that the therapist maintains a flexible style
  • The therapist adjusts and modifies treatment based on your unique journey
  • The therapist has experience working with your specific concern
  • The therapist listens to your goals and works to help you implement them
  • Your best interest is their top priority

This information may all be fine and good… but how do you find this type of therapeutic relationship? 

After all, finding a therapist that’s right for you is not like going to a physician’s office for a sore throat

Pay attention to the feelings you get when you first speak with a therapist!

  • See how the therapist responds to the question, “can you help me?”
    • Do you feel comforted by how they answer the question?
    • Do you feel more at ease after speaking with them?
  • Do you feel satisfied with the level of experience in your area of concern?
  • Ask if they provide a free consultation so you get to know them a bit more 
  • Take your time before deciding whether to schedule an appointment with someone

What are the various counseling methods therapists use?

The American Psychological Association names 5 general categories of psychotherapy.  They include:

  • Psychoanalysis therapy: Emphasizes changing problematic thoughts while creating/uncovering new meaning.
  • Behavior therapy:  Emphasizes the role of identifying and helping change unhealthy behaviors.
  • Cognitive therapy: Emphasizes changing distorted thoughts.
  • Humanistic therapy: Emphasizes people’s ability to reach their full potential.
  • Holistic therapy: Emphasizes integrating aspects of multiple approaches based on the patient’s needs.

Within these broad categories, there are over 400 different types of therapeutic modalities

Therapies range from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to Yoga Therapy and everything in between!

Today, most therapists use an “integrative approach.” 


This means that the therapist combines various therapeutic tools and modalities to fit your individual needs and goals.

Can an integrative approach be used in treating depression and anxiety?

Yes!  Essentially, a therapist matches evidence-based treatments with the client’s goals to create a truly individualized approach.  


We do this by considering your own unique characteristics, preferences, needs, physical abilities, spiritual beliefs, and level of motivation.   We then weave together the best approaches to fit your unique life situation.

What exactly do Marriage & Family Therapists do?

Like clinical psychologists and social workers, Marriage and Family Therapists work with individuals.  

And, like clinical psychologists in Indianapolis, they are trained in the 5 broad categories named above.


However, they are also specially trained to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders within the context of partnerships, marriage, and families.


Not only do they have extensive training with individuals, couples, and families, but they are also trained to think about problems in context of relationships.

In other words, they don’t look simply at the problem.  Rather, they take a wider view to examine how relationships have impacted how you view a problem and may inform some of your present-day decisions and choices.


Looking at the larger context- beyond just an individual- allows for more holistic treatment to take place. 

What about Clinical Psychologist or psychiatrists? Where do they fit in?

  • Psychiatrists (M.D.’s) can and do prescribe medication when needed.

  • Their perspective is more focused on the link between neurochemistry and mental health. 

  • They tend to focus more on prescribing and monitoring medication.  

  • Psychiatrists also consider if an underlying illness or medication could be a contributing factor to a mental health concern. 

  • Their focus is quite different from therapists. 

It is very common practice in Indianapolis for clinical psychologists, LCSWs, LMFTs, & LMHCs to refer a client to a psychiatrist or vice versa. 


Most psychiatrists and therapists have a large referral network to help guide you to the mental health resource that is right for you.

I hope this article has helped you to feel more confident in locating the right mental health professional for you in Indianapolis, Indiana.  

Are you ready to give therapy a go?  

I'm here to help!

Free free to contact me directly if you have questions or to schedule a brief call to see if I might be able to support you as you journey forward.


Looking for mental health services in Indy?

As a marriage and family therapist, I also offer: 

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