Category: FYI

Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Counselor?

What’s the difference between a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Counselor, and Social Worker? Psychology is the study of the human mind and behavior. It’s used in so many fields such as Advertising, Sales, Education, and most notably, in the human services field. But unless you have some form of training, it can be confusing knowing what each role does.  Here is a quick explanation of the different titles in Psychology when it comes to the human services field.


A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who prescribes  medications for mental health. Only they, or a nurse practitioner, can prescribe medications. They go to medical school and study mental health disorders (diagnosis) and learn which medications are used to treat people. When you see a Psychiatrists for the first time, they’ll give you  an evaluation, which is a bunch of questions about your family history, health history, and symptoms. You then  get a mental health diagnosis and depending on the doctor’s recommendations, they may also give you a script. They should give you a script for blood work to rule out any medical conditions that can affect your emotions and behaviors. For example, if your thyroid levels are too high or too low, you can have symptoms of Depression, mood swings, and Anxiety. Remember, there is no blood test to look for psychological diagnosis.

After that, you typically see them once a month or once every other month, for 15 minutes to see if the medications are decreasing symptoms or if they should adjust the dosage or prescribe something else.

A Psychologist is a doctor because they have a doctorate degree, (PhD or PsyD) but they are not medical doctors so they can not prescribe medications. Psychologist are trained to provide psychotherapy and to administer tests such as IQ tests, personality tests, test for learning disabilities, and other tests.

A lot of Psychologists work in schools, counseling centers, and courts.

Psychotherapist, or Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC), have a masters degree, although some Psychologist are also LPCs because they took the state exam. LPC’s study clinical and counseling psychology and are trained to give Psychiatric evaluations, diagnose, and provide therapy. Total training takes at minimum, 8 years. 4 years of college, 2 years of graduate school, and 2 years post masters training. After the 8 years, they can now take the state license exam. Every state is different, so some require more or less time of training.

If you don’t want medications and just want therapy to help you with a problem your facing, such as feeling depressed, anxious, cutting, Eating Disorders, etc. these are the guys you would want to see because all of their training is in the therapy process.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) are the same as LPC, except that their training focuses on Marriage and Families. If you want to see a couples therapist, or want family therapy, these are the guys you want since all of their training is in this area. Although a Psychologist or LPC would also have training in this area because the license board requires it, it’s not specialized training.

Social Workers may provide  counseling, but they are trained in helping people and families function the best way possible in their environment. They’re not too concerned in figuring out why you keep doing what you’re doing and how to stop it. Instead, they’re concerned with your safety and what help do you need right NOW. Social workers can work with Child Services Agencies, at hospitals, prisons, and schools.

Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) provide psychotherapy. Health insurances will only pay if you’re seeing a licensed clinical social worker, not a non licensed clinical social worker. LCSW’s train in helping people and families to function the best way possible in their environment, plus some courses on the therapy process. LCSW’s license requirements are very similar to LPC’s.


I know it can be confusing but it comes down to the training of the clinician. If you only want medication, you’d see a psychiatrist. If you don’t want medications and want to learn skills to know how to deal with things, you’d see a LPC, LCSW or Psychologist. If you want to go to couples therapy, you would want to see a LMFT.  If you need a test to see if you have a learning disability or custody evaluations, you’d see a Psychologist.


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About Liza J Alvarado, MS, LPC

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Bethlehem, PA area.


Adjusting Back to School.

It's  that time of year again! The one where parents typically look forward to and kids want to forget. Back to school. Over the summer, kids can get off their routines. Sleep schedules are very different, and for working parents, trying to figure out what to do about childcare/supervision can be very stressful. But it's time for everyone to get back to their routines. Make the transition back to school as smooth as possible with the following practical tips.

  • Lead by example by showing excitement. Stress to your child that this is an exciting time, although they might not show it.  Starting a new school year is a step closer to starting middle school, high school, or graduating. Focus on the positives of this time of year. If your child is feeling Anxious about starting school, listen to their concerns and suggest relaxation techniques. If your child has experienced bullying or a difficult previous year, make sure to address this with the school.
  • Organize a get together for your child and some of their friends. Besides fundamentals, school teaches one of the most important skills we need, socializing skills. Think back to when you were in school. What are some of the  memories you had? Do you remember in detail the day you learned cursive, or how to do algebra? Probably not. But I'm willing to bet you remember an embarrassing moment, having fun at the pep rally, or the time the class clown made you laugh so hard you almost peed on yourself. That's because school is about socializing. Having a small get together before school starts reminds your child of what they've been missing, and could get them excited about going back to see friends again.
  • Attend open houses if possible. Getting familiar with teachers and the school building will prepare students on what to expect. It also helps to get familiar with the building without the crowded hallways.
  • Let your child pick out their own school supplies and outfits. (at a reasonable price of course) You could even choose several items that you approve of, and have them choose from the ones you picked out already. This will give them a sense of control.
  • Get back on normal sleep schedules at least a week before school starts.  Don't expect them to be able to fall asleep quickly when they've been used to staying up past midnight, and then all of a sudden having to go to bed by 9 pm. Get their bodies adjusted to waking up early again by slowly cutting back on bedtimes. If they've been up until 12 am, enforce going to bed by 11:30 pm and so forth. The same goes for waking up. If they've been sleeping in until noon, enforce them waking up by 11 am.  The majority of the students I work with express liking school, but hate waking up so early. Having a good nights rest ensures that they feel rested and complain less about waking up early in the morning.
  • Have everything ready the night before. This should be part of your every day routine. Have your child pick out their outfits and have backpacks ready and by he door the night before. This cuts down on rushing in the mornings trying to figure out what to wear or looking for supplies to put in the backpack. You could even ask them what they want for breakfast the next morning. The more streamlined your mornings are, the better it will be for everyone.
  • Discuss with your child goals they would like to achieve for the upcoming school year. It can be anything from joining a certain club, sport, or getting Honor Roll. Or even working on getting homework done right after school instead of waiting until the last minute. Having goals can give them something to work forward to, while also helping to build their confidence.

If your child is having a really hard time adjusting to school or having anxiety attacks in the mornings, that's a sign to get professional help. It's important to find the right therapist to teach them the coping skills needed to deal with these symptoms.

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About Liza J Alvarado, MS, LPC

Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Bethlehem, PA area.






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