There is not one element in the above list that is necessarily more important than the other – don’t, for example, assume training is everything.
Although training is obviously important, the therapist with more degrees than any others will be useless to you if the two of you can’t get along. Therapy is at heart a relationship between you and your therapist.
Other things to consider when starting psychological therapy
We all are unique, and we all have our own priorities.
Remember, a good therapist is one that works for you, and that you feel able to openly explore your life and hopes with. So other things you might want to consider can be if:
they come from the same or similar race/ religion/ background to you
It is entirely possible for a person to be a very helpful counsellor and not be registered (some people, for example, find their church counsellor very helpful). But it is generally deemed safer to work long-term with a psychological therapist who is licensed.
Licensing means a therapist is legally able to use a certain title. The requirements to have a license to offer psychological therapy can vary from state to state, but –
in general, licensed therapists in America are called: psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, counselors, and clinical social workers.
Do not be afraid to ask a therapist directly and clearly about their licensing and training. Remember, you are the one hiring and paying them. You have the right to ask whatever questions you deem necessary.
If you are worried about your therapist’s certification, contact the licensing board of your state and verify if your therapist is indeed listed.
Differences in Training of Each Type of Therapist
Each pathway into being a therapist will have certain educational and training requirements, which can vary slightly by state. But they are generally as follows:
After obtaining a medical degree of at least four years, a psychiatrist has finished a residency (another four years) that included psychiatric work. He or she has then passed various exams.
They are given general training in all major talk therapies, and they are the only type of therapist that can prescribe medication.
This means a therapist has finished the highest level of training possible in psychology, usually taking between four and seven years.They then spent years in supervised clinical training and passed many exams.
A PsyD can open their own private therapy practice (you must have a doctorate to do so in America) although some prefer to just work with clients without opening a practice.
The difference between a Ph.D and PSyD is that Ph.D’s usually work in research over with clients, although they too are eligible to open their own private practice.
Licensed Professional Counsellor (LPC), Mental Health Counsellor (LMHC or MHC), or Licensed Clinical Professional Counsellor (LCPC)
A bachelor’s degree in any subject followed by a master’s degree in counselling (another two years minimum) is the standard in America. A licensed counsellor will also have two years of full-time work under their belt, and have passed a certification exam. They tend to work in clinics, hospitals, courts, and with individuals.
Licensed Family and Marriage Therapists (LMFT)
They will have completed both a master’s degree and an internship placement. And as the name says, they focus on your marriage and your family life.
Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), or Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW), LCSW-R.
Some social workers just take a four-year bachelor’s degree before entering an internship or entry level position in social work.
But to be licensed, they generally have to go on to finish a master’s in social work. After they finish their master’s they will also do a minimum of two years supervised clinical work as well as take a licensing exam.
They work with individuals, couples, and families and are interested in helping others with psychological wellbeing and relationships. They tend to be more affordable than other kinds of therapists. You’ll often find social workers in offices, schools and group settings like rehab centres.
LCSW-Rs have six or more years of experience, and are eligible to be covered by insurance plans.
Licensed Addiction Counsellor (LAC)
They aren’t actually considered ‘therapists’ in America, but they often work alongside others who are therapists. They have usually attained at least a bachelor’s degree, followed by at least a year of training in addictions counselling.
Licensed Creative Arts Therapists (LCAT)
They have taken a master’s degree in art, music, or dance therapy, and have passed the necessary training and exams to be licensed.
Is the therapist really trained in the sort of therapy you want to try?