If you are trying to find a therapist, it’s likely that you will come across therapists with differing levels of licensure. But what does that even mean? I want to help break that down. To most people, it makes no sense what intern versus pre-licensed versus provisionally licensed versus fully licensed means. Honestly, I did not know the difference between them until I started my counseling internship. So to help you make the most informed choice of counselor, I will briefly explain each to you.
In order to become a counselor, an individual must go through undergraduate and graduate school. There are many different routes one can take, social work, clinical mental health, marriage and family, and others. But the basics is that in order to start seeing clients, your therapist has to go through some amount of graduate school.
Interns: An intern therapist is one who is still in the process of graduate school. They generally have taken most, if not all, of their classes and are ready to put their knowledge to use. Typically these interns will have at least two different fully licensed therapists that act as a mentor and teacher for them during the process. This means if you are seeing an intern therapist, you can get two (or THREE!) for the price of one! Having a supervisor means that there are extra people making sure that you, the client, get the best possible care from your therapist. One benefit to having an intern therapist is that they often charge substantially less than any other therapist at a higher level of licensure. Occasionally, they may film a session (with your consent) or have a supervisor sit in (again, with your consent!) in order to make sure that they are giving you the best treatment possible.
Pre-licensed and provisionally licensed: While these two are not exactly the same, for simplicity’s sake I am lumping them together. Basically the difference is that one of them has taken a test that gives them a “provisionally licensed” status. With both pre-licensed and provisionally licensed therapists, they have already completed an internship and their graduate program. They still have a supervisor, but because they have more experience and have their graduate degree they are farther along the process of becoming licensed. At this point, the therapist no longer has to film their sessions and now this is a real, paying job for them. Because of this, pre-licensed and provisionally licensed therapists have a higher rate than intern therapists.
Licensed: A licensed therapist is the end goal for most people trying to become a therapist. It is the culmination of a lot of hard work. You have to have a graduate degree, you have to pass tests, you have to have seen X* amount of clients for X* amount of hours, and you have had supervisors and been supervised for X* amount of hours (*the amount of hours varies depending on what state and exactly what license you are seeking. For example, marriage and family therapists do not have the same rules as clinical mental health therapists who do not have the same rules as social workers). Getting to this point takes a lot of hard work and dedication which is why licensed therapists charge the highest rate. They no longer are required to consistently go to supervision and, at this point, have years of practice under their belt. In fact, it is licensed therapists who are supervisors to interns and pre-licensed or provisionally-licensed therapists.
Ultimately, the biggest difference in the level of licensure is the amount of time that the therapist has been practicing. It is similar to how there are intern doctors, residents, and full MDs. Some people are comfortable having newer doctors and therapists while others prefer a more seasoned professional. Luckily for you, at Works Counseling Center we have therapists at all of the levels of licensure. This way you get to find exactly the therapist that fits you and one that you can afford.