Decoding the Therapy Alphabet (and choosing the best fit!)

Today’s blog post is meant to offer some assistance to those of you who may be looking for a therapist for yourself, your loved one, or your facility. Depending on your goals, you’ll need to navigate our healthcare system to find the right therapist. Searching on sites like or means interpreting each therapist’s blurb and the many letters you may find after their names.

First and foremost, remember that you can always try a few sessions with a few different therapists. Keep the lines of communication open with your provider, and be honest. A good match is important to reach your best self!

This blog will focus on creative arts therapists in Maine. If you live in another state, these may not apply. I’ll try to address all the possible credentials and licenses of various therapists so you can compare and contrast. I’ll also discuss how these credentials affect insurance coverage and fees.

Don’t let your eyes glaze over, the alphabet is FUN! Remember Sesame Street?

Below is a list of post-name-letters you may see, with a brief explanation. Any creative arts therapist may or may not have some of these, they are not specific to CATs and just mean that that person has some other credential. Other therapists, counselors, teachers may also have these letters.

  • ACS: approved clinical supervisor
  • CADC: certified alcohol & drug counselor
  • LADC: licensed alcohol & drug counselor
  • LCPC: licensed clinical professional counselor
  • LCSW: licensed clinical social worker
  • LMFT: licensed marriage & family therapist
  • LPC: licensed professional counselor
  • MaDT: developmental therapist
  • NCC: national certified counselor

Below is a list of the licensures in Maine for each profession:

  • Psychologists:
  •             Psychologists, Conditional Psychologists, Temporary Psychologists
  •             Psychological Examiners, Conditional Examiners, and Temporary Examiners
  • Social Workers:
  • LS (licensed SW),
  • LM (licensed master SW),            
  • LC (licensed clinical SW)
  • Professional Counselor
  • Counseling:
  •             Professional Counselor
  • Clinical Professional Counselor
  • Marriage and Family Therapist
  • Pastoral Counselor
  • Registered Counselor
  • Complementary Health Care Providers:
  •             Acupuncture
  •             Custom-Made Chinese Herbal Formulations Certification
  •             Naturopathic Acupuncture
  •             Naturopathic Doctor
  • Occupational Therapy:
  •             Occupational Therapist
  •             Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Speech, Audiology and Hearing:
  •             Audiologist
  •             Speech-Language Pathologist
  •             Hearing Aid Dealer

If you see a credential after someone’s name and it is listed on the Maine State Licensure site, it means that the credential is recognized by the state. State recognition protects YOU, the consumer, by making sure the people practicing as therapists and counselors have the proper training and supervision. It stops other people from providing services they are not trained to provide.

State recognition also means that there is a better chance your insurance company, or Mainecare, will cover the service.

Keep in mind that no matter their credentials, each therapist will have their own philosophies, personalities, and style. 

Now for creative arts therapists! I’ll break this down by modality. When you’re searching for a creative arts therapist, be sure to search by location on that modality’s credentials board site, not just the association’s site. This is because therapists can choose not to be a member of their modality’s association. Similarly, non-creative arts therapists can pay to be a member of an association as a supporter.

Generally, consumers want to employ credentialed therapists for safety’s sake- these clients will have passed professional competencies that allow them to practice safely and ethically.

What could possibly be unsafe about the arts?!

That’s a great question! There is potential harm in arts experiences and interventions. There are safety protocols, including infection control, and there are verbal and physical interventions during which each client needs to feel safe and supported. This is true whether the therapist is working on physical or emotional goals. Therapists keep their credentials by earning continuing education credits and constantly improving their knowledge base and practice.


Mental health profession in which clients use art and the creative process to restore functioning and well-being. 

  • The New England Art Therapy Association
  • International Expressive Arts Therapy Association
  • Art Therapy Credentials Board
  • Art therapists must have a master’s degree or above to practice.
  • There are ATRs  and ATR-BCs (advanced professional competence)
  • In Maine, there are 11 ATRs and 7 ATR-BCs.


Psychotherapeutic use of movement and dance to support intellectual, emotional, and motor functions of the body. 

  • American Dance Therapy Association
  • New England chapter, ADTA
  • Dance Therapy Credentials Board
  • Dance therapists must have a master’s degree or above to practice.
  • There are R-DMTs and BC-DMT (advanced)
  • In Maine, there are 5 RDMTs and 8 BCDMTs.


 Active, experiential and intentional use of drama and/or theatre processes to help clients tell their stories, set goals and solve problems, and express feelings.

  • North American Drama Therapy Association
  • Drama therapists must have a master’s degree or above to practice.
  • There are RDTs, and BCTs (board certified trainers, who have been RDTs for 5+ yrs)
  • There are no RDTs or BCTs in Maine. There are 3 in MA, 2 in CT.


Multi-modal, blends and integrates the arts modalities. REATs call upon their own creativity and training in each approach to determine which modality or combination is needed in any given moment.

  • Registered expressive arts therapists must have a master’s degree, extra institute, and supervision in order to practice.
  • There are REATs and REACEs (consultants and educators)


Clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions and the therapeutic relationship to strengthen clients’ abilities and transfer these to nonmusical goals.

  • American Music Therapy Association
  • New England region, AMTA
  • Music Therapy Credentials Board
  • Music therapists must have a bachelor’s degree or above to practice.
  • There are MT-BCs.
  • There are also professional designations listed on the registry site, ACMT, CMT, and RMT, which are therapists who are qualified to practice until 2020.
  • In Maine, there are 10 MT-BCs.
  • Music therapists may also have some or all of the following, which represent specialized trainings that inform their work:
  •             Neurologic MT
  •             Nordoff Robbins MT
  •             NICU MT
  •             Hospice & Palliative Care MT
  •             Fellow in Association for Music & Imagery


Use of play to encourage clients to act out their fantasies and express their feelings, aided by the therapist’s interpretations. 

  • New England Play Therapy
  • Registered play therapists must have a master’s degree or higher to practice.
  • There are RPTs and RPT-Ss.
  • There are 33 RPTs in Maine.

I encourage you to spend time on these websites getting to know about the training and education of the therapists you’re considering. Also, look to see if they have an NPI, a National Provider Identification, which may help to get insurance coverage.

Right now, the Board Certifications held by creative arts therapists are national. Some states have their own licenses (i.e. the LCAT, in New York) or state registries (i.e. WMTR, in Wisconsin), which comes from state recognition. In Maine, none of the creative arts therapy credentials are recognized so you’ll see some art therapists who have additionally earned an LCPC in order to take insurance. Maine music therapists have started a state task force to work on getting state recognition, which we believe strongly in rather than getting a separate counseling degree because of our specialized training.

To recap, if you’re looking for a therapist, look for the following:

  1.  Intensive academic study in their field.
  2. Supervised clinical experience.
  3. Certification, Registration, or Licensure.

And take your time getting to know them.