Who Should You Choose for Therapy?

People ask, “I want to go into therapy, what kind of therapist should I choose?” Often the person will answer their own question with “Shouldn’t I see a psychologist/psychiatrist/counselor/therapist/psychoanalyst….” The list of helping professionals goes on. My answer is, if you are looking for a psychotherapist, find someone you are comfortable talking with. That response begs the question of whether there is one mental health profession that is best suited to providing psychotherapy.

If you are looking to start psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as “the talking cure” you might be interested to know that there is no one license or training that qualifies a person to be a psychotherapist. Licensed mental health professionals which includes LCSWs, who have graduate degrees in social work, Phds or PsyDs with graduate degrees in psychology, Psychiatrists who are medical doctors, and , LMHCs or LFTs who have graduate degrees in Mental Health Counseling or Family Therapy, all provide psychotherapy. The different degree candidates are licensed within their field of study, and licensure requirements, both education and training, vary from state to state. So in fact there is no specific license for psychotherapy.

There are different reasons to work with the different types of professionals. Only MD’s or psychiatrists can prescribe medication. Psychiatrists fees tender to be higher and many are not available to work with clients in ongoing therapy. A psychologist, Phd may be specifically trained to do testing and assessment as is often prescribed for children with academic difficulties. But many Phd or PsyD. psychologists provide psychotherapy. Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) and Licensed Mental Health Counselor are specifically trained in clinical psychotherapy with a focus on different methods for working with family, children and couples.

If you go looking for a therapist you will likely find more people are LCSWs, or psychologists. But people approach being a psychotherapist from a wide range of disciplines, including religious and spiritual backgrounds. Their gender, sexual orientation, race or religion may be important for you in feeling they can understand or work with you. Beyond the demographics, is the experience and expertise the clinician has and whether that fits what you are looking for help with. The reason for being comfortable talking to a therapist is because that is what you and the therapist are going to do. If the therapy is for a child, then there will naturally be an emphasis on play in a variety of forms and you should expect to find the therapist has toys and games in their office.

Parents occasionally will introduce me as Dr. Kane to their child, but I always explain to children “I’m not a doctor, I don’t give shots.” Sometimes a client will continue to call me Dr. Kane, in which case I don’t object. If calling your therapist doctor makes you feel comfortable, then go right ahead. The important thing is finding someone you feel comfortable talking with, someone who can see you for who you are and hear what it is you have to say. A good maxim I learned from an online mentor. Susan Giurleo, a Phd psychologist is “Your clients don’t care what kind of degree you have. They only care that you can help them with their problems.” Amen to that.

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