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What the Initials Mean

Mental health professionals come in a variety of flavors. Here's a brief breakdown of what all those initials mean:

An M.D., otherwise known as a medical doctor, is called a psychiatrist when he or she specializes in psychological treatment. A psychiatrist can prescribe drugs. This means that if a pharmacological approach is recommended by a non-M.D. mental health professional, a psychiatrist will be involved as a secondary care giver.

A Ph.D. holds a Ph.D. in psychology. She may also have other clinical training or certification, for instance, in psychoanalysis or another therapeutic approach. Special note: Any old Ph.D. (a Ph.D. in Meso-American archaeology, for example) does not qualify as a person to mess with your mind. You're looking only for that Ph.D. in psychology or a related field.

M.F.C.C. stands for marriage, family, and child counselor. To get this certification, the therapist must earn a masters degree and then counsel people for about a zillion hours under supervision. Then he takes an oral and a written exam, and if he passes, he's certified. Keep in mind that not all M.F.C.C.s will have the same approach. (Hey, not all mental health workers of any kind will have the same approach!)

A L.C.S.W. is a licensed clinical social worker. To get this certification, the therapist goes through a process similar to the M.F.C.C.s. She earns a masters degree in social work, counsels people for gobs of hours under supervision, and takes an oral and written exam.

An intern is a candidate for an advanced counseling degree of some kind who is completing her counseling hours while using the license and under the supervision of a certified therapist.

Stepfamily Support Groups and Organizations

As the number of stepfamilies in this country has boomed, so has the number of support services. You are not alone! Check out Appendix B for Web sites focusing on stepfamilies.

As an alternative or an addition to private therapy, you and your family might be interested in checking out some of the stepfamily support systems. The Stepfamily Association of America (402-477-7837) is a non-profit educational organization that holds support meetings in chapters all across the country. Also check out the Step Family Foundation at 212-877-3244.

Alternative Alternatives

For depression, stress, addiction, guilt, or other yucky feelings, consider combining your therapy with some alternatives, such as a massage, a hot bath, ice skating, acupuncture, or a manicure. Caring for the soul means providing it with fun and pampering, too.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Stepparenting © 1998 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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