A Guide to Acronyms in the Helping Professions


Are you confused by those strings of letters that appear on the business cards and telephone listings of helping professionals? Here is a helpful list of some of the most common abbreviations and acronyms. The designations are broken down into several categories for your convenience. If you do not see the acronym you are looking for in one category, check out the others. This is not an exhaustive list, so the acronym you are looking for may not be here.Many professionals will list both a license and a national certification. For example, a professional counselor may place both LPC (for Licensed Professional Counselor) and NCC (for Nationally Certified Counselor) after his/her name and degree.

Some helping professions, such as art therapy, are not licensed separately in many states. In such cases, practitioners will be licensed in a related professional field, and certified by a national association in their chosen profession. In the example above, a Registered Art Therapist (ATR) may be licensed as a psychologist (Licensed Psychologist), clinical social worker (LCSW), or professional counselor (LPC).

Other professionals may have dual credentials, such as being licensed both as a professional counselor (LPC) and a marriage and family therapist (LMFT). A clinical social worker (LCSW) may also be certified as an employee assistance professional (CEAP). This makes for extra designations on their business cards, letterheads, and phone listings.

All of the helping professions have associations composed of persons who belong to that profession or who share an interest in the advancement of that particular field. Not all practitioners belong to the professional associations of their fields. Those who do demonstrate a commitment to the standards of their profession.

Each helping profession has its own set of educational requirements. Some professions, such as psychiatry and clinical psychology, require their practitioners to earn doctorates (such as an MD, PhD, or PsyD). Others, including professional counseling and social work, require only a master’s degree (such as an MA, MS, or MSW). In the fields that allow a master’s degree for licensure, some practitioners earn a doctorate in order to obtain advanced training and to teach in graduate programs in their fields.

Some graduate training programs in the helping professions are offered by seminaries and religiously-oriented colleges and universities. Degrees from these institutions may reflect the religious content of the training (such as DMin, MDiv, or MAR). Others offer the more familiar degrees as well (such as MA or MS).
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Professional Degrees

Almost all of the helping professions require training beyond a bachelor’s degree. Most master’s degrees consist of from 36 to 60 semester hours. The Specialist in Education degree requires additional training, usually 72 semester hours. Doctorates typically require 90 to 100 semester hours.

To make it all more confusing, please be aware that some institutions of higher learning reverse the order of the initials. For example, Master of Arts may be abbreviated A.M. instead of the usual M.A.

Acronym Degree
DC Doctor of Chiropractic
DD Doctor of Dentistry
DDS Doctor of Dental Surgery
DMin Doctor of Ministry
DNP Doctor of Nursing Practice
DO Doctor of Osteopathy
DPT Doctor of Physical Therapy
DSN Doctor of Science in Nursing
DSW Doctor of Social Work
EdD Doctor of Education
JD Doctor of Jurisprudence
MD Medical Doctor
OD/DO Doctor of Optometry
PharmD Doctor of Pharmacy
PhD Doctor of Philosophy
PsyD Doctor of Psychology
EdS Specialist in Education
MA Master of Arts
MAR Master of Arts in Religion
MC Master of Counseling
MDiv Master of Divinity
MEd Master of Education
MHSc Master of Health Science
MN Master of Nursing
MNNP Master of Nursing, Nurse Practitioner
MPH Master of Public Health
MRC Master of Rehabilitation Counseling
MRE Master of Religious Education
MS Master of Science
MSN Master of Science in Nursing
MSS Master of Social Services
MSW Master of Social Work
MTh Master of Theology

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Issued by states to allow professionals in the specified field to practice in that jurisdiction. Each state sets its own requirements for education and training for each profession it recognizes, although this is usually similar to national certification standards (see next section). Typically, each state’s Department of Health has a division of health-related boards to oversee the licensure process. Some states register or certify cetain professions rather than issuing licenses. In such caes, the appropriate acronym will be in the next section, Certifications

Acronym Credential
* Licensed Physician
* Licensed Psychiatrist
* Licensed Psychologist
LAMFT Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist
LAPC Licensed Associate Professional Counselor
LCDC Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor
LCPC Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
LCMHC Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor
LCPT Licensed Clinical Pastoral Therapist
LCSW Licensed Clinical Social Worker
LD Licensed Dietitian
LMFT Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
LMHC Licensed Mental Health Counselor
LOT Licensed Occupational Therapist
LPT Licensed Pastoral Therapist
LPT Licensed Physical Therapist
LPCC Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor
LPC Licensed Professional Counselor
LPN Licensed Practical Nurse
LSW Licensed Social Worker
RN Registered Nurse
RNP Registered Nurse Practitioner

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Issued by boards created by professional associations to certify that a professional has met the educational and training requirements to practice in the specified field.

NOTE: Some states register or certify certain professions rather than issuing licenses. In such cases, the certification or registration is from the state rather than from a professional association or other credentialing body.

Acronym Credential
ADTR Academy of Dance Therapists, Registered
AT-BC Art Therapist, Board Certified
AT-R Art Therapist, Registered
AVA Accredited Valuation Analyst
BC-DMT Board Certified Dance/Movement Therapist
BCBA Board Certified Behavior Analyst
BCBA-D Board Certified Behavior Analyst, Doctoral Level
CA Chartered Accountant
CADAC Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor
CAP Certified Addictions Professional
C-ASWCM Certified Advanced Social Work Case Manager
CCH Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist
CCMHC Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor
CDVC Certified Domestic Violence Counselor
CEAP Certified Employee Assistance Professional
CFA Certified Financial Analyst
CFE Certified Financial Examiner
CFP Certified Financial Planner
CFE Certified Fraud Examiner
CHT Certified Hypnotherapist
CIA Certified Internal Auditor
CMBC Certified Master Business Coach
COMS Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist
CPA Certified Public Accountant
CPC Certified Pastoral Counselor
CPC Certified Professional Counselor
CPT Certified Poetry Therapist
CRC Certified Rehabilitation Counselor
CRT Certified Rehabilitation Teacher
DAPA Diplomate of the American Psychotherapy Association
DTR Dance Therapist, Registered
MAC Master Addictions Counselor
MCC Master Certified Coach
MFCC Marriage, Family, and Child Counselor
MT-BC Music Therapist, Board Certified
NCAC Nationally Certified Addiction Counselor
NCC Nationally Certified Counselor
NCCC Nationally Certified Career Counselor
NCGC Nationally Certified Gerontological Counselor
NCSC Nationally Certified School Counselor
PA-C Physician’s Assistant, Certified
PCC Professional Certified Coach
RCC Registered Corporate Coach
RD Registered Dietitian
RPT Registered Poetry Therapist
RN Registered Nurse
RPh Registered Pharmacist

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Related Designations

Acronym Designation
BCD Board Certified Diplomate (in a specialty)
CDF Career Development Facilitator
CDP Chemical Dependency Professional
CDS Chemical Dependency Specialist
CEDS Clinical Eating Disorders Specialist
CS Clinical Specialist (nursing)
MHPP Mental Health Paraprofessional
MHS Mental Health Specialist
MHSP Mental Health Services Provider
PA Physician’s Assistant
QCDC Qualified Chemical Dependency Counselor
QCSW Qualified Clinical Social Worker
QMHP Qualified Mental Health Professional
QMRP Qualified Mental Retardation Professional

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Certification Boards

These are bodies that are formed by professional associations in order to establish standards for education and training for members of the profession. Boards create exams that ensure prospective professionals can demonstrate a knowledge of critical elements of the profession. Boards usually also set standards for continuing professional education, and monitor members in compliance.

Acronym Board
ADT Academy of Dance Therapists
ABE American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work
ABPTS American Board for Physical Therapy Specialists
ANCC American Nurses Credentialing Center (and other boards for various specialities)
ACPE Association for Clinical Pastoral Education
AER Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
BACB Behavior Analyst Certification Board
CCE Center for Credentialing and Education
CRCC Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification
CBMT Certification Board for Music Therapists
FBPT Federation for Biblio/Poetry Therapy
NBCCH National Board of Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists
NBAE National Board Of Addiction Examiners
NBCC National Board for Certified Counselors
NBCOT National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy

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Professional Associations

Most national associations have regional and state affiliates or chapters as well. This list is limited to the United States unless designated as “international”. Many other countries have similar associations of their own.
APTAAmerican Physical Therapy Association

Acronym Professional Association
AANP American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
AAPC American Association of Pastoral Counselors
AATA American Art Therapy Association
AAACM American Association of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
AACM American Association of Chinese Medicine
AAMFT American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
AAPH American Association of Professional Hypnotherapists
ACA American Chiropractic Association
ACA American Counseling Association
ADTA American Dance Therapy Association
ADA American Dietitic Association
AMA American Medical Association
AMHCA American Mental Health Counseling Association
AMMA American Medical Massage Association
AMTA American Massage Therapy Association
AMTA American Music Therapy Association
ANA American Nurses Association
AOA American Optometric Association
AOA American Osteopathic Association
APA American Psychoanalytic Association
APA American Psychiatric Association
APA American Psychological Association
APA American Psychotherapy Association
ABAI Association for Behavior Analysis International
APBA Association for Professional Behavior Analysis
APHA American Public Health Association
AOTA American Occupational Therapy Association
ASCA American School Counselors Association
ABMP Associated Bodyworkers and Massage Professionals
CSWF Clinical Social Work Federation
EAPA Employee Assistance Professionals Association
IAC International Association of Coaches
ICF International Coach Federation
NAADAC National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors
NAFC National Association of Forensic Counselors
NAPT National Association for Poetry Therapy
NASP National Association of School Psychologists
NASW National Association of Social Workers
NECA National Employment Counselors Association
OAA Opticians Association of America
WABC Worldwide Association of Business Coaches

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Governmental Agencies

Here are a few of the acronyms of U.S. and U.N. agencies related to the helping professions.

Acronym Agency
CDC Centers for Disease Control
CMHC Community Mental Health Center (many centers across the nation)
CMHS Center for Mental Health Services (HHs)
EPA Environmental Protection Agency
FDA Food and Drug Administration
FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency
HHS Department of Health and Human Services
NIH National Institute of Health
NIMH National Institute of Mental Health
WHO United Nations World Health Organization
VA Department of Veterans Affairs

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Corporate Titles

Here are a few of the acronymsfor the most common senior executives in corporations.
Acronym Agency
CAO Chief Administrative Officer
CCO Chief Communications Officer
CEO Chief Executive Officer
CFO Chief Financial Officer
CIO Chief Information Officer
COO Chief Operating Officer
CTO Chief Technical Officer
CD Creative Director
HRD Human Resources Director

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Peer Support Groups

Self-help groups are composed of individuals who share a common experience who meet together for support and recovery. Although these groups are not organized or conducted by professionals, their acronyms are frequently encountered in publications and discussions of mental health issues, and are included here.
Acronym Support Group
AA Alcoholics Anonymous
ACOA Adult Children of Alcoholics
Al-Anon Family Support Group for Alcoholics Anonymous
Al-Ateen Child Support Group for Alcoholics Anonymous
CA Cocaine Anonymous
CODA Co-Dependents Anonymous
Debtors Anon Debtors Anonymous
FAA Food Addicts Anonymous
GA Gamblers Anonymous
MA Marijuana Anonymous
NA Narcotics Anonymous
OA Overeaters Anonymous
SLAA Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous

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Diagnostic Systems

There are two major systematic classifications of diseases and conditions in use in the United States. Both systems are regularly updated as scientific knowledge increases and opinions of professionals change about the nature of disease. Below are the more common acronyms still in use today.

ICDAInternational Classification of Diseases, Adapted for the United States.

Acronym System
DSM-III Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition. (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 1981.)
DSM-III-R Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Third Edition, Revised. (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 1987.)
DSM-IV Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 1994.)
DSM-IV-TR Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision. (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.)
DSM-V Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. (Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.)
ICD-9 International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision. (World Health Organization, 1977.)
ICD-9-CM International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification. (World Health Organization, 1979.)
ICD-10 International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision. (World Health Organization, 1989.)
ICD-10-CM International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification. (World Health Organization.)

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Theories of Psychotherapy

There are more than five hundred theories of counseling and psychotherapy. Many of these are not referred to by acronyms, such as psychoanalysis, gestalt therapy, and client-centered therapy. Here is a partial list of some of the theories that do use an abbreviation. Some of these theories or methods are not accepted by all mental health professionals.

Acronym Theory
ABA Applied Behavior Analysis
BM Behavioral Medicine
BT Behavioral Therapy
CI Crisis Intervention
CT Cognitive Therapy
CBT Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
EMDR Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
NLP Neuro-Linguistic Programming
PET Parent Effectiveness Training
PCP Personal Construct Psychology
PCT Personal Construct Theory
REBT Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy
RET Rational-Emotive Therapy
RT Rational Therapy
STEP Systematic Training for Effective Parenting
TA Transactional Analysis
TM Transcendental Meditation

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Assessment Instruments

This is a list of some of the more popular tests and measures used by helping professionals. There are many hundreds of measures that have been published, so this list contains only a fraction of those available.

Acronym Instrument
BDI Beck Depression Inventory
BVMGT Bender Visual Motor Gestalt Test
CAT Children’s Apperception Test
CPI California Psychological inventory
CTP California Test of Personality
JPI Jackson Personality Inventory
MBTI Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
MMPI Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
MMPI-2 Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, Second Edition
16PF Sixteen Personality Factor Scale
STAI State-Trait Anger Inventory
STAI State-Trait Anxiety Inventory
SB-LM Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, Forms L and M
SB-IV Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, Fourth Edition
SB-V Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, Fifth Edition
TAT Thematic Apperception Test
WAIS Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale
WAIS-R Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Revised
WAIS-3 Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Third Edition
WISC Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children
WISC-R Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Revised
WISC-3 Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Third Edition
WPPSI Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence
WPPSI-R Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, Revised
WPPSI-3 Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, Third Edition

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Forms of Businesses

A professional practice that has established a partnership or corporation for tax and other legal purposes will have one of the following acronyms as part of the name of the company. A Professional Association (PA) is a group practice comprised of a number of professionals in the same field who have formed separate corporations or partnerships as well.
Acronym Business
* Sole Proprietorship
* General Partnership
DBA Doing Business As
LLC Limited Liability Company
LLP Limited Liability Partnership
PA Professional Association
PC Professional Corporation
PLLC Professional Limited Liability Company

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    • Thanks. I added DBA. ACCA is the American College Counseling Association. I don’t know what C-HEAD is. (ACCA is also the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.) –Don :)

    • Christine, check with your college or university to make sure what your degree is. Most people do not include their major in their acronym. Thus someone with a Master of Arts in any field, such as counseling, clinical psychology, history, or English, would only place M.A. after their name in a signature. But some degrees are more specific, such as a “Master of Arts in Counseling,” designated as M.A.C. In this case “Counseling” is part of the degree name, not the major field of study. The same may be true in your case, and your acronym would be M.A.C.P. (or MACP). The Master of Arts in Counseling degree I am aware of is offered by a seminary rather than a university with a full range of fields of study. Thanks for asking. –Don :)

      • A MAC is a Master Addiction Counselor, therefore, MAC for a master of arts in counseling is not accurate. MA should be use and then any license or certification as MA, NCC, CCMHC, LMHC, LMFT, etc etc or MA, LMHC, NCC, CCMHC, etc…

        • I agree except in the rare case where the name of the degree itself is “Master of Arts in Counseling” (usually only offered in seminaries or other specialized programs, not colleges and universities, e.g., Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tennessee, see 3rd degree listed). As I continually repeat in the main article and in comments, you DO NOT put the major area of study or department in the degree designation. So a person who has a “Master of Arts” in counseling is a MA not a MAC, and someone with a “Master of Arts” in psychology is also a MA, not a MAP.

  1. You might want to add:

    Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS)

    National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC)

    The American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA)

    I hope this helps,

    Michael Ratliff, CTRS
    Director of Recreation Therapy at Oregon State Hospital

    • LADC stands for Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor. CADC stands for Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor. In the states that use this designation the LADC may require a master’s or other advanced degree in counseling or a related field. In the case you mention the person has a Master of Arts (MA) degree. Applicants for the CADC need only a high school diploma in some cases. I will find out more and add this to my list. Thanks for asking. –Don :)

  2. Hi Don, your page is possibly the most helpful page on the entire internet. What does C.E.T. stand for? THe person is in the field of psychology and put M.A., C.E.T. after her name.

    • Thanks, Jean! Glad my page is helpful.

      It is possible that C.E.T. stands for “Certified Educational Therapist,” a credential offered by the National Institute of Learning Development. There is also a BCET, or Board Certified Educational Therapist, but I couldn’t tell what body offers that. CET is also the initials of several other things, perhaps one or more of them in the helping professions, although a quick Internet search didn’t show me any.

      I will investigate further and add this credential to my list. Thanks for asking. –Don :)

    • It is your choice to list either your degree or your license. However, most people would list both. I personally don’t like a long string of letters after my name, but these two are customary and provide useful information for colleagues and clients about your credentials. Thanks for asking.

  3. I have asked many people “in the know” and have never really received a good answer. So let’s see how you do.

    I have a Masters of Science in Addiction Counseling. What would go after my name?

    MSA (This is what I use currently)
    MS Ac
    or maybe something different all together???

    This Masters degree is less than the normal 60 credits for a regular counseling degree. I believe that this is why there needs to be a distinction.

    Thanks for any help you can provide.

    • Hi, Zach,

      Thanks for asking. You need to check with your college or university and see what your actual degree is. My assumption is that it is a Master of Science degree (M.S. or MS) with a major in Addiction Counseling. There are cases, however, where the degree could be a Master of Science in Addiction Counseling, and the acronym would be M.S.A.C. or MSAC). I am not sure, but my opinion is that MS A would not be correct — I invite anyone who has experience in this area to correct me if needed. 😉

      Generally professionals do not include the name of their major field of study in their acronyms. For helping professionals the area of expertise is usually indicated in the license or certification, such as NCAC 1 (National Certified Addiction Counselor, Level 1) awarded by The Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC) or the MAC (Master Addictions Counselor) awarded by the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC). States have a wide range of titles for addictions professionals, so check with your local jurisdiction. Here in Tennessee one possible license is Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC).

      Your signature might look something like this: Zach Duran, M.S., LADC, NCAC 1

      The periods in degrees are optional, so either M.S. or MS is acceptable. Licenses and certifications rarely use periods.

      A master’s degree can be as few as 30-36 hours, and many others are 48 hours or so. Most counselor and social work state licenses and national certifications, however, require a minimum of 60 hours of training bey0ond a bachelor’s (including 6-15 hours of practicum/internship). So if your degree requires less than 60 hours it may limit you in the licenses and certifications you qualify for. This also varies widely from state to state, though, so check it out where you live or want to work.

      Hope this helps.

      Don :)

  4. I have a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, I am wondering what the Acronym is for my business cards, I also applied for my License. Any feedback would be appreciated.

    Thank you,

    • Hi, Carol,

      I am so sorry I dropped the ball on your comment! I wanted to do some research on rehabilitation counseling and then didn’t come back to the blog.

      The same advice I have given in previous comments and in the main article applies in your case. The abbreviation for your degree depends on what the degree name is, not the major field of study. It is most likely either an M.A. or an M.S., although in some cases it may include “Rehabilitation Counseling” or “Rehabilitation Counselor Education” in the name. Ffor example, see the University of the District of Columbia’s program, which is an M.A.).

      The license will also depend on what license you are seeking and how your state or province designates it. This varies widely.

      Will you seek the “Certified Rehabilitation Counselor” (CRC) designation awarded by the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification (CRCC)? This accreditation is a rigorous one that goes beyond many others that require only a master’s degree.

      Good luck in your new career. You have a special place in my heart, since I am legally blind and had to deal with problems related to becoming employed and learning the skills for daily living as a person with a disability. We need more people with specialized training in this area.

      Don :)

  5. Good morning Don,

    I am wondering what would be appropriate if at all to use when I have a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a Concentration in Human Services and I am also in my last year of Masters of Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program.

    B.S., PP for the Bachelor’s Degree and PP for Paraprofessional as I am working towards MA

    I hope this was not too confusing, but I do think it is professional to have some sort of initials when sending emails, or nothing at all would be really appropriate? Be blessed, and thanks for your guidance.

    • Hi, Margaret,

      Thanks for asking. In my opinion, just use your highest earned degree, or B.S. in this case. There is no need to indicate you are a “paraprofessional,” unless this is a recognized title in your state or province. You don’t need to say what your major or concentration is in your signature. However, at this level (volunteer, practicum student, or intern), no credentials are required or expected in most circumstances.

      Good luck in your master’s degree training. Soon you will be able to use “M.A.” and the acronym for whatever license you obtain.

      Take care and God bless.

      Don :)

  6. Hello! I have two Masters; Master of Arts in Counseling and Master of Arts in Human Services. How would I include those two in my signature? Is it too much to have “M.A. in Counseling, MAHS”? What other ways can I utilize both and provide that I have a Masters in Counseling w/o someone guessing about “MAC, M.A.C. or MC”?

    • Most likely both your degrees are Master of Arts (MA). You do not include the major (Counseling or Human Services) in your signature. You may specify your major and/or your professional title on your business card or website, but this is not usually done in the signature line. As noted in the article and previous comments, however, you need to check with your college or university and see what the actual names of your degrees are. There are a few universities that offer a “Master of Arts in Counseling” (MAC); this is the name of the degree, not the major. Hope this helps. –Don :)

  7. Hi Don,
    I earned my masters degree in forensic psychology, but I am unsure how to add that to my signature line at work. Would it be MA, or MAFP? Forensic psychology was the actual program & not a concentration, but I have seen it written both ways. Thank you for your help Don.


    • Hi, Natasha,

      Check with your college or university and see what specific degree you are enrolled in. I did a quick online search and saw that most universities offer a Master of Arts (MA) with a major in Forensic Psychology, and a couple have a Master of Science (MS) in Forensic Psychology. I did not see any with the specific degree “Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology,” although there might be some. That would be abbreviated as MAFP. Or some school may offer the Master of Forensic Psychology” (MFP) degree.

      So if you have a Master of Arts degree, in any field, you would sign as Jane Doe, MA. It is not customary to put the major field of study in the signature. If you do, however, for some reason want to specify your major, I would write it like this: Jane Doe, MA in Forensic Psychology (unless the degree name itself contains the words Forensic Psychology).

      Hope this helps

      Don :)

    • Hi, Will, Your degree designation is almost certainly simply M.S. or MS (periods are optional), except in the rare cases where the actual degree is “Master of Science in Addictions Counseling,” when it would be MSAC. However, as noted above, you do not typically name your major in your signature. If you did choose to do so, it would be something like “M.S. in Addictions Counseling.” Check with your college or university to determine what your degree type is. –Don :)

  8. Thank you in advance for your help. What acronym do you use for Certified Sand Tray Therapist? Or is it simply considered a treatment modality like Gestalt Therapy? This is a great website, btw. I’m so glad I found it!

    • Hi, Paul,

      I must confess that I do not know the answer to your question. Perhpas CSTT? I studied both sand play and sand tray in a course on child counseling in graduate school and have attended some excellent workshops at conferences, so I think Sand tray is a great therapeutic modality that requires training (not just reading a book). Not everyone who uses the sand tray with clients has received a certification, and properly speaking should say that they do “sand tray counseling” (and not use the word “therapy”). If I had a sand tray certification, I would want to say so, especially for prospective referrers. Check with your certifying body and see what they recommend. They may even have a graphical logo you can put on your website the way the National Board for Certified Counselors does for NCCs.

      One important thing to consider is that there is a difference between a certification that you completed a certain program of study at some institution and a certification from a regional or national certifying board that is separate from the training provider. The former is more like a diploma or degree, while the latter is the type of certification most often placed on your signature line (I think you realize this due to your mention of gestalt therapy training). Both types of certification are different from a state or provincial licensee to practice. Note that there are two or three types of licenses, too. You can be licensed to use a branded modality (like John Gray’s Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus), just as you are licensed to use a software application you bought like Microsoft Word. A business license from a city or county is yet another type. These differences in the way the same terms (certification and license) are used can be confusing, so it is wise to keep them straight.

      Best wishes for success in your practice. You will help lots of people, I am sure.

      Don :)

    • Denise, there is no hard and fast rule about this, so don’t worry too much. But usually you will have your primary degree first, then a second degree if applicable, then your license, if any, then any pertinent certifications. So yours would be Denise _______, MSW, MPA, LCSW, CSST (If you were a Certified Sand Tray Therapist as someone asked about a couple of weeks ago). Note that you only put your highest degree in a particular field in a signature. So a psychologist would have only PhD or PsyD and not list his/her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. But a physician who has an MD and also a Master of Public Health degree would sign Joan Doe, MD, MPH. I assume your MPA is a Master of Public Administration, and that is different enough from a Master of Social Work to add to your signature in the second spot (unless it is your primary occupation now, in which case you might put it first). You would list all your degrees, licenses, and certifications in your resume or curriculum vitae, but only the most relevant ones in your signature line. Hope this helps. –Don :)

  9. Hi,
    This is a great inventory. Thank you for compiling it.

    You may wish to add:
    BCBA – Board Certified Behavior Analyst
    BCBA-D – Doctorate level BCBA
    BACB – Behavior Analysis Certfication Board
    These professionals practice ABA (already on your list).

    Kind regards,

    • Hi, Kristi, I saw a reference to ABA specialists a couple of months ago and was planning to look into adding the acronyms for this field. Thanks for sharing. I will edit the page now. –Don :)

    • To play my broken record, consult with your university to see what you actual degree is. In your case it is most likely “MS” or “M.S.” You don’t list your major in your signature, but only your highest degree(s), any licenses you have, and any certifications. So, if you are a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, you would add “BCBBA.” If you are a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, you would add “CRC.” Best wishes for success in your profession. –Don :)

  10. I have a Masters of Science in Psychology….I don’t remember if i got this acronym from the university
    So it’s what i have been using. After reading this blog, i have my doubts…..will my colleagues think me foolish?

    • Rebecca,

      Thanks for raising this important issue. If you are from the United States most likely your degree and acronym is MS, not MSP. This is not always the case, and even less often in other countries. So the safe advice is always to check with the college or university that granted your degree. If you have a school catalog that describes your program use that. It will also be on the school’s website.

      I wrote this blog post for non-professionals so they could make sense of the “alphabet soup” in professional signatures. Most people are not as concerned with details as I am. I would not worry too much about what others think about your choice. Few would question your credential.

      I see now that acronyms are as confusing to new professionals as they are to the public. Maybe this should be covered in a professional orientation course in your training. The problem is, most of those are offered at the beginning of the training and printing business cards comes at the end (or even after) of training. My advice is to go ahead and use any cards you have now and make any corrections needed when you buy more.

      Take care.

      Don :)

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