Choosing A Therapist

When you want to solve a personal, couple, family, or organizational problem, PCC can help you make an informed choice about whether counseling can help you and what kind of treatment might be useful.

Q. What is counseling?

A. Counseling, or psychotherapy, is a process in which an individual studies his or her emotions, attitudes, and behaviors. The process is guided by a professional trained to understand human behavior and to apply various strategies for the relief of psychological pain, for modifying behaviors, and to enhance personal growth. The process is conducted confidentially.

Q. When does someone seek counseling?

A. The decision to see a therapist is most often, though not necessarily, made at a time of high stress and significant emotional pain. An individual seeks assistance for difficulties that seem repetitive or for a difficulty that is unlike anything encountered before. Some of the reasons for beginning therapy are

  • self-esteem issues
  • depression
  • stress or anxiety
  • addictions
  • loneliness
  • guilt
  • excessive anger or frustration
  • communication problems
  • constant worries or obsessions
  • relationship concerns
  • life event concerns such as marriage, divorce, parenthood, job changes or loss, step-family issues, empty nest, retirement, old age
  • issues of sexuality or sexual identity
  • coping with traumatic events and the after-effects of childhood or adult physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and trauma
  • current violence or other forms of abuse
  • illness and/or death.

Q. What do I consider in selecting a therapist or counselor?

A. It is important to verify that an individual is appropriately accredited by the state to practice psychotherapy. It is also important to consider the style of psychotherapy practiced by the therapist, whether an individual’s areas of expertise match your concerns, and whether the therapist’s personality seems to be a good fit for you.

Q. How does the state recognize a qualified therapist?

A. The State in which a therapist practices issues licenses based on areas of study and ongoing experience. A therapist may be licensed as a psychologist, social worker, professional counselor, nurse practitioner, or psychiatrist. It is important to note that psychotherapists come from a variety of professional backgrounds, and the nature of the professional degree (Ph.D., Ed.D., MD, MA, MSW, MSN, etc.) does not determine the skill level, theoretical approach, or kinds of techniques a therapist might use.

  • Licensed Masters of Social Work must complete a two-year masterís degree in social work or its equivalent and have 4000 hours of supervised post-degree experience by a licensed master's social worker then pass an exam before acquiring the LMSW credential. Clinical social workers may be trained in a variety of therapeutic techniques and approaches.
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists must complete at least a masterís degree and have two years of supervised marriage and family counseling experience. While their training specializes in marriage and family concerns, they may also be qualified as individual therapists. Therapists with other licenses may be qualified to conduct marriage and family therapy.
  • Licensed Professional Counselors are required to complete a doctoral or masterís degree in counseling and have 1,500 to 3,000 hours of post-degree experience. Licensed professional counselors may be trained in a variety of therapeutic techniques and approaches.
  • Limited License Psychologists must complete a two-year masterís degree in psychology and one year of supervised post-degree experience. Limited license psychologists work under the supervision of a fully licensed psychologist and may practice many different kinds of psychotherapy.
  • Licensed Psychologists must complete a four-year doctoral degree (Ph.D., Psy.D. or Ed.D.) and two years of supervised post-degree experience, and pass a state licensing examination. Psychologists may practice many different kinds of psychotherapy.
  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specialized in psychiatry. They may practice many varieties of therapeutic techniques but are the only mental health practitioners who are allowed to prescribe medicines.

Q. How do therapy styles differ?

A. Therapy styles differ in at least two ways:

  • The extent to which the therapist is concerned with your understanding how your past has impacted your present circumstances, especially in the area of your concerns, and
  • The kinds of methods the therapist uses to assist you in changing the behaviors that you determine need changing.

Research indicates no one method of therapy to be generally superior to any other, although some approaches work better with some particular problems. What has been found to be most important for good outcomes from psychotherapy is the quality of the relationship formed between the therapist and the client.

Q. Do therapists specialize in different ways?

A. Therapists specialize in the treatment of couples, families, and/or individuals. In the latter case they may specialize with individuals of specific age groups. Therapists also differ in the level of expertise they have with regard to certain problem areas such as post-traumatic stress, grieving, step-family concerns, addictions, etc. This expertise is gained through experience and/or special training.

Q. How much of what I tell a therapist will be held confidentially?

A. PCC therapists are committed to respecting your privacy and believe that all counseling is confidential. It is concern for the privacy of the therapist-client relationship that causes PCC therapists to encourage their clients to consider the lack of privacy that may be part of the manner in which third-party payers handle the information they receive and the kind of information they require. The law and ethics require, however, that a therapist warn anyone in danger because of a client, take steps that may require breaking the confidential nature of the therapy if a client is a threat to him/herself, and report any suspected incident of child abuse or neglect.

Q. How do I choose the therapist thatís right for me?

A. When you have determined that a therapist might be appropriate for you, whether through a suggestion from another person or from a listing such as the one in this directory, begin the selection process with a phone call. Talk with the therapist about his/her expertise in the concerns that you would bring to counseling. Ask how he or she would approach helping you with these concerns. You donít have to be an expert in treatment modalities to decide if what you hear makes sense to you or sounds good to you. The best indication that a therapist is right for you is your sense that the therapist "talks your language."


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