What is the difference between a Ph.D/Psy.D doctor vs. non-doctorate clinician? Who should I choose for my therapist?

While this is a VERY important topic, it is still considered very taboo, especially amongst clinicians in the mental health field.

First, let me provide an understanding of a Ph.D in Clinical or Counseling psychology and a Doctorate in Psychology (Psy.D). Both of these degrees are at the doctorate level. A Psy.D is a doctorate in psychology, where you spend 4-5 years working towards a degree that focuses on clinical/therapy work. A Ph.D. spends usually 50/50 in terms of clinical and research work. This allows your clinician to have a good grounding in new, evidence-based treatments and a continual knowledge and training in the scientific method to approaching their work. A Ph.D typically takes 5-8 years of training and research. Both degrees require post-doctoral work (taking 1-3 years) before the official licensure process. A Psy.D and a Ph.D. will have 10,000-15,000 clinical hours by the time they are licensed.

Other degrees, such as licensed social workers (LICSW), Licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), and Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC), receive 1-3 years of clinical only training. Usually this training is generalized and not in a speciality form (e.g., cognitive behavioral). These degrees will have 3,000-5,00 hours of clinical hours by the time of licensure.

A lot of therapists claim to use “cognitive-behavioral therapy” but they are actually just doing talk therapy. Before any clinician is accepted as part of the Washington Anxiety Center (Capitol Hill and Alexandria Location), they are vetted to make sure they have at least 7-8 years of supervised experience in using evidence-based treatments.

While many clinicians without a doctorate-level degree are qualified, you need to do your due diligence as a patient to make sure they are qualified. Also, in the Capitol Hill area, non-doctorate clinicians are charging similar rates as doctorate level ones.

Think about the qualifications that you want in a mental health provider that will best fit your needs. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, school refusal issues, please get the most evidence-based treatment (i.e., cognitive behavioral, exposure work).

Feel free to reach out at our practice! We have current openings.–Dr. K