A Guide to Understanding Mental Health Degree Acronyms

PhD written on the spine of a book.
Degree abbreviations are used after an individual's name. Getty / Ibusca

Have you ever wondered what the initials after your doctor or therapist's name mean? The following lists have been compiled to help you understand the designations that therapists who work with individuals with social anxiety disorder may have.

In general, mental health professional treating the disorder will typically have earned a master's and/or a doctorate degree (MA, MEd, MS, PhD, or PsyD). Psychiatrists will have earned an MD, while social workers will have earned an MSW and possibly a DSW.

In addition to degree credentials, many mental health professionals also hold certifications related to their practice. Common examples include LMFT, LCSW, and LPC.

Furthermore, certifications are also available and make up another large portion of acronyms. CPC is a certification common in the mental health field.

Note that these terms are for the United States. While there will be some overlap internationally, not all terms will apply worldwide.


The following is a list of common postgraduate degrees obtained by mental health professionals who treat social anxiety disorder, among other diagnoses.

DSW: Doctor of Social Work

EdD: Doctor of Education (more common in counseling than clinical professions)

MD: Medical Doctor (specializing in Psychiatry)

PhD: Doctor of Philosophy (in Clinical Psychology)

PsyD: Doctor of Psychology (a more practical degree)

MA: Master of Arts (in Clinical Psychology)

MC: Master of Counseling

MEd: Master of Education

MHSc: Master of Health Science

MS: Master of Science (in Psychology)

MSW: Master of Social Work


Mental health professionals offering treatment for SAD may also hold any of the following licenses that indicates their membership in a professional organization.

LAMFT: Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist

LAPC: Licensed Associate Professional Counselor

LCPC: Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor

LCMHC: Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor

LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Worker

LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

LMHC: Licensed Mental Health Counselor

LPCC: Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor

LPC: Licensed Professional Counselor

LSW: Licensed Social Worker


Certifications recognize specialization by mental health professionals. Individuals may also hold certifications without having been conferred a relevant degree, such as in the case of professional coaches.

AT-BC: Art Therapist, Board Certified

AT-R: Art Therapist, Registered

C-ASWCM: Certified Advanced Social Work Case Manager

CCH: Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist

CCMHC: Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor

CHT: Certified Hypnotherapist

CPC: Certified Professional Counselor

DAPA: Diplomate of the American Psychotherapy Association

MCC: Master Certified Coach

MFCC: Marriage, Family and Child Counselor

MT-BC: Music Therapist, Board Certified

PCC: Professional Certified Coach

While some professionals may hold multiple designations, when searching for a treatment provider, it is best to seek out someone with doctorate-level training. Advanced graduate study is necessary to offer services, and also means that your therapist is likely practicing evidence-based medicine (meaning that the treatments you are offered have been scientifically proven to work).

If you are unsure about the credentials of an individual, ask about his or her experience in the treatment of SAD, look for feedback from other clients. In the end, it is always best to err on the side of caution, and select a provider for whom you are sure the appropriate educational and professional background exists. Doing so will give you peace of mind that you are receiving the best care possible.


Encouragement Plus. A Guide to Acronyms in the Helping Professions. Accessed September 29, 2015.

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