These Tips Will Help You Sift Through the Options
Making the decision to try therapy can be a stressful, fear-ridden and daunting decision in itself, let alone deciding which therapist to choose. You may be thinking, “Which one is right for me?” Perhaps you googled “therapists near me” only to find all kinds of therapists listed without a way to tell who’s going to be a good fit or what makes one different from the other. That’s what I’d like to explain–to make it easier for you to find a therapist. I’ll do that by first explaining what you might be feeling and then the different kinds of therapists there are.
First, when considering therapy for yourself or loved one, you may feel hesitant. How am I going to open up to a stranger? How will they know how to help me? Can’t I just figure things out by reading a self-help book?
These questions are understandable, given this is something new and you’re not sure what to expect other than perhaps what you’ve seen in the movies. Let’s take these questions and break them down.
- How am I going to open up to a stranger? Therapists get to know you on a personal basis and are generally good at fostering rapport and building a relationship with you. This is key to whether you feel it’ll be a good fit, because you want a therapist who you imagine you’ll feel increasingly more comfortable with. Therapists don’t expect you to disclose all the details of your life right away, and they understand it’ll come in time as you feel more safe with them. Realizing, too, that you get to choose how much you open up about can also give you peace of mind.
- How will they know how to help me? Therapists have specialized training in the issues you’re struggling with so you’ll want to find someone who’s comfortable and confident in working with the specific issues you’re experiencing. A therapist’s effectiveness is based on his or her temperament, training and overall clinical experience. For instance, if you’re seeking individual support for depression, then it’s best to find a therapist who says they specialize in it and that they have experience helping clients with it.
- How will they know how to help me? Can’t I just figure things out by reading a self-help book? Because of their training and specializations, therapists have unique abilities to hone in and help you overcome and resolve issues that are causing problems. And, because research shows that a healthy therapeutic relationship can help foster increased security, seeing a therapist has all kinds of benefits. Reading information in a book just doesn’t result in the kind of changes that therapy does.
Now onto the titles and credentials:
Let’s begin with the two credentials after my name. LMFT stands for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. An LMFT has a Master of Arts or Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. They may specialize in couples, individuals, families, children, or in all of these listed. They may also have a speciality they practice with, such as eating disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, anxiety, depression, trauma, etc. LMFTs see clients in private practice, in group settings, community mental health agencies, non-profits and hospitals. They may also be referred to as a “psychotherapist.” LMFT’s look at people’s issues from a social and relational context, because our close relationships impact us.
Another one of my credentials is LPCC. This stands for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. An LPCC has a Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy as well, allowing them to do counseling just like an LMFT. An LPCC can also provide career counseling to clients and uses the perspective of focusing on the issue from an individual, developmental issue.
An LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and holds a Master of Arts degree in Social Work. An LCSW places their focus on connecting the client with the resources they need to function well. These resources may be internal such as personal skills and strengths, or external such as community resources or support groups. All in all, there is much overlap in all three of these professions, but ultimately, they have one thing in common–the desire to help others overcome and work through their issues in order to lead healthier, happier, and more productive lives.
The next group of therapists earn a higher degree, but it does not necessarily mean they provide more effective therapy. These professionals are referred to as Doctors of Psychology. Generally speaking, a Ph.D in psychology prepares the professional to teach and focus on research while a Psy.D prepares the professional to practice psychology in a wide range of professional settings, including formal assessments. In other words, a Psy.D focuses more on clinical practice and less on research, whereas, a Ph.D focuses on the opposite, more on research, less on clinical practice.
A psychiatrist on the other hand is a medical doctor who can prescribe medication and also do therapy. However, with the fewer number of medical students in the United States wanting to get trained and licensed as a psychiatrist and the demand for mental health services nationwide, this is causing a shortage of psychiatrists in our communities to help patients and clients. Many psychiatrists do not have the time to do therapy and partner with other mental health professionals.
What’s Most Important is Feeling an Emotional Connection with Your Therapist
Nevertheless, the increase of needs for licensed professionals in the field of mental health is on the rise. This expands your options when selecting someone who is a good fit. It may not be what letters are after the professionals last name, but more about how you as the client connect with your therapist. Try your therapist out for a few sessions and see how well they seem to understand you. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, that’s okay. Take the time to find one who is, because it’s worth it’s weight in gold.
Call me at 626.319.5076 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation if you or someone you love is curious about how therapy can help.