The State of Colorado provides a wide range of choices to the consumer in the field of psychotherapy. Colorado not only provides a variety of licenses, it also provides oversight of unlicensed psychotherapists. Both licensed and unlicensed psychotherapists in Colorado must be proficient in the area in which they practice.
All therapists in Colorado are required by law to provide a disclosure statement that includes the therapist's training, credentials and some state regulations regarding the practice of psychotherapy. The state regulatory system allows for the widest possible selection of therapy orientations, educational sources and creative styles combined with regulatory oversight to protect the public from abuse.
The following list provides a general description of each type of license or registration in Colorado. It may not be all inclusive of requirements and regulation. More information can be found via the Colorado department of regulatory agencies (DORA) at www.dora.state.co.us/mental health. Licensed and unlicensed practitioners in Colorado are required to pass a state jurisprudence exam which educates them in mental health statutes for psychotherapists in Colorado.
Licensed Psychologist (Ph.D. or Psy.D.). A psychologist has a doctorate in psychology or its equivalent and 1500 hours of postdoctoral experience doing psychotherapy under supervision. He or she has passed the required multifaceted psychologist's examination. Psychologists may focus in one or more of a variety of specialty areas including psychological testing, psychotherapy or psychological evaluation.
Psychiatrist (MD). Psychiatrists are licensed medical doctors. They have completed a medical internship and psychiatric residency and are licensed to prescribe medication. They may practice psychotherapy, and may or may not have additional training in psychotherapy beyond their medical training. Psychotherapists may refer clients to psychiatrists for evaluation and treatment to confirm or rule out the possibility of medical issues, or to determine if medication might be helpful to the client.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). An LPC has a master's degree or doctorate and 2000 hours of supervised experience with a supervisor approved by the State Board of Licensed Professional Counselor Examiners. He or she must pass the required examinations. An LPC's training is based on the principles of counseling. An LPC may be very eclectic, or may specialize in a focused area of interest, such as couples counseling, vocational counseling or other issues.
Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). An LSW or an LCSW has completed at least an MSW (master's of social work) and has passed a required examination. The LCSW also has 3360 hours of experience under the supervision of an LCSW. Social workers are trained to work with individual, group, organizational or societal issues. Social workers often work in private practice in ways similar to other psychotherapists.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). An LMFT has a master's degree and two years of post-graduate supervised experience or a doctorate and one year of post-graduate supervised experience by an LMFT. LMFT's also pass an approved examination. LMFT training specializes in relationship issues, but a therapist with an LMFT may also do individual counseling.
Unlicensed Psychotherapist. All therapists, licensed or unlicensed, are required to practice only within their areas of competency. An unlicensed psychotherapist may practice (within his or her area of competency) in ways not defined by other licenses, or may be competent in similar ways to other licensed professionals. Sometimes an unlicensed psychotherapist is a professional with an advanced degree working on licensing under supervision and will become licensed in the future. The unlicensed psychotherapist must register with the state and is subject to the oversight of the Colorado State Grievance Board. Many unlicensed psychotherapists are highly educated and trained in one or more of a variety of modalities.
Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC I, CAC II, & CAC III). Certification at the three levels requires 1000, 3000 and 5000 hours of supervised experience respectively and increasingly complex examinations, coursework and demonstrations of clinical skill. CAC's are certified to work with all forms of addictions and with families or partners of addicts.
Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC). An LAC has acquired the highest level of certification (CAC III), has a master's degree or doctorate in an approved field, and has passed an examination.
Additional Credentials. Licensed and unlicensed psychotherapists often have additional training beyond traditional degrees. These include training in specific areas, such as couples or family therapy or trauma work, or in various psychotherapy approaches. Among these approaches are psychoanalysis, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, art therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, wilderness therapy, hypnotherapy, existential-humanistic therapy, body oriented psychotherapy, Jungian analysis, and other modalities.
Our descriptive list of approaches is currently being expanded by competent therapists in each modality.
While all studies show that the fit between therapist and client is more predictive of a positive outcome for therapy than the particular approach, it is probably a good idea to consider a therapist's additional credentials as part of the decision making process in choosing a therapist. For example, it might be a good idea to go to someone whose focus is couple's therapy for relationship issues. In-depth training beyond graduate school often indicates responsibility and enthusiasm for the field on the part of a therapist.
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