If you have ever sought support from a mental health professional, you may have become surprised at the range of different titles and types of professionals that are available to help you with your issues. Throughout the medical professional world, different types of mental health professionals deal with a variety of different issues and go through different forms of training to make sure that they can provide people with a specified form of knowledge and help in order for their patients or clients to work through our better understand their mental health illness or issue. Among the different types of mental health professionals, you will find psychiatrists, psychologists and LMFTs. This brief article will serve to help you discern the differences between them and help you come to the conclusion of which one will better serve your counseling or mental health need.


Psychiatrists may major in any field during their undergraduate career, although it is expected for them to have some science courses under their belt. After graduating, a psychiatrist must commit themselves to 4 years of medical school. Most of the time spent in medical school is in the classroom, but after they finish their 4 years of course work, they can choose to major in psychiatry.

After these 4 years of medical schoolwork, a psychiatrist will begin his or her work doing clinical rotations, which is to say, the early years of psychiatry work. A psychiatrist will spend approximately 4 years doing rotations during which they will learn neurological science. Essentially, what a psychiatrist does is manage the physical conditions which accompany mental illness, which includes prescribing medication for any mental health related issue. If you need medication for any mental illness, you should seek out a psychiatrist. 


An LMFT is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Their work and educational background is quite different from that of both a psychiatrist and a psychologist. An LMFT perform counseling and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is within the purview of what the psychiatrist is committed to, but is generally on the periphery of what they do.

LMFTs perform psychotherapy sessions quite often with their clients. There is a wide range in what a potential LMFT can major in during their undergraduate years, but most graduate programs prefer a potential student who has a strong background in behavioral sciences. After completing their undergraduate degree, a LMFT hopeful will spend 2 years in a graduate program specifically designed for LMFTs. Their coursework mainly consists of behavioral science courses, therapy workshops, research and professional ethics. After graduating, a LMFT will generally spend 2 years doing supervised practice. If you find that you could benefit from therapy, be it talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, but do not need medication, you might consider seeking out a LMFT. 

Clinical Psychologist 

A clinical psychologist is also another form of mental health professional. A clinical psychologist will mainly deal with someone with severe mental illness in some form or another. Generally speaking, a clinical psychologist must have deeper training than that of an LMFT and must be committed to psychometric assessment.

While a LMFT needs a master's degree, and a psychiatrist needs to be conferred a medical degree, a clinical psychologist must possess a PhD or a PsyD. Generally speaking, a PhD takes longer to complete and offers a more robust treatment of the study of psychology, with the PhD candidate largely focusing on research. A PsyD takes somewhat less time to complete, and while it does focus on research, the main portion of the completion of the PsyD is based largely on clinical practice. If you are looking for more in-depth, intensive therapy, or a specialized form of therapy, you might seek out a clinical psychologist rather than a LMFT. 

The differences between the LMFT, psychiatrist and clinical psychologist are many, but there is much overlap on the Venn diagram of which they are included. It is important to keep yourself aware of what these professionals do, how they can help you and even what sort of education they receive. Learn more here.