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Ask Dr. Z

college therapist collective

What's the difference between a counselor, therapist, psychologist and psychiatrist? And what do those letters stand for behind their names?


They are professionals who have studied, trained and are licensed in understanding human behaviors. They all use talk therapy to figure out your fears, anxiety, depression etc., and to help you find solutions. Therapist is usually what people say about seeing someone for mental health.

The difference is in their education, specialties and years of practice. CTC therapists are all licensed and have joined to specifically work with college students. 

Whether it's a counselor or psychologist, this is what's important for YOU

  • Meet in person to see if it's a good match for you, it may take meeting more than one

  • Feel safe and comfortable to discuss whatever is on your mind or troubling you

  • Do not worry if you want to change therapist, they do not take it personally


Some therapists have a doctorate (PhD) which means they have extended education and training. Psychiatrists are the only therapists who can prescribe medication. They will have the initials MD (Medical Doctor) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine).

Some common initials you may see

LP - Licensed Psychologist

LPC - Licensed Professional Counselor

LMHC - Licensed Mental Health Counselor

LMFT - Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

LCSW - Licensed Clinical Social Worker


CTC can help find a match for you. Register to Find a Therapist.

Disclaimer:  The Q&A is not meant as a therapy tool nor establishes a relationship with a therapist.  If you need immediate help, call 911, go to your nearest emergency room or call a mental health hotline.  None of the opinions expressed here should be interpreted as therapeutic advice.  Please call a therapist from the CTC network to establish a relationship. The issues/questions are typical of college-age students. They are fictional and do not contain confidential information.

Dear Dr. Z

College life has been a lonely experience for me. My roommate is never in our room.  Her boyfriend lives off campus so I barely see her. I don't have anyone to eat meals with. I was cut from sorority rush before school began so that began all the loneliness. I am thinking of transferring or dropping out of college for a while.

Lonely in L.A.


Dear Lonely in L.A.

You are not alone in feeling the way you do. Many studies have shown that feeling lonely is very common among college students, especially during the first year. Don't despair, there is help around.

  • Your resident advisor (RA) in the dorm might be a great resource to connect you with groups, clubs or affiliations that interest you.

  • Volunteer activities on campus may help you feel more of a campus connection. 

  • Write down 3-5 things you enjoy doing for fun or exercise etc., and find those groups on campus or nearby.

  • You could also ask if there's a lunch bunch or study group that you could join, or ask your RA how you could start one.


If you are not in a dorm, go to the campus counseling center. That's a good starting place and hopefully counselors are available to see you weekly. 

Connect with a CTC therapist to work on your self-awareness, and to give you feedback on the social cues you are sending to others. A therapist can give you exercises to practice in how to connect with others. Keep going to class, take it one day at a time.

Dear Dr. Z

I have always had trouble making decisions. For instance, if my friends ask if we should go to Chik-Fil-A, Burger King or In-N-Out Burger, I panic. I ask them to make the decision, even though I have a craving for chicken nuggets with Polynesian sauce. The problem is my indecisiveness has spread to my college major. I am a sophomore and have now changed my major twice. I still don't think I have picked the right major for me. How can I figure this out?

Indecisive in Dallas


Dear Indecisive in Dallas

It's ok to have trouble picking an area of study. On the average, college students change their major at least three times during their college year.

Think about what it is you want to do to earn a living someday and a college major separately. Sometimes they are not one of the same. For instance, a student who loves studying history may end up pursuing a career in teaching upon graduation. 

I recommend

  • meet with your academic advisor, or go to the career center for guidance

  • ask students about their major area of study and how they enjoy it

  • gain real world experience with summer internships/part-time jobs, to learn more about the work you think you're interested in

Meet with a CTC therapist to dive deeper in answering 'Who am I?' and 'What will I become?' As you learn about yourself, the answers will present themselves. What are your gifts?  What are your unique talents? An experienced therapist can guide you in finding out. 

An ongoing relationship with a therapist can help clarify your goals and celebrate your strengths. 

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