Sometimes, for potential clients, the hardest part is working up both the courage to admit that there is a problem in their life that needs attention. For clients, especially guys, it’s easy to avoid admitting or knowing when to admit there’s a problem. That’s the first step. Actually finding a professional therapist is a whole other matter.
People don’t always know who they need – they just know that they need help. When it comes time to research a counselor or therapist, many seek out the recommendations of their friends and family. They trust that they’ll feel safe and comfortable with that professional if those they love vouch for the therapist (like any good service provider).
But if there’s no personal referral, the search for help becomes like hiding your eyes and throwing the dart at the board. You hope for a hit, and you could just as well throw it way off the target.
Knowing who does what is an important start. Here’s a quick primer to get you going, and a simple way to understand the alphabet soup of credentials that your next therapist might have:
LPC = Licensed Professional Counselor. In the State of Arizona, LPC’s are licensed by the state through the Board of Behavioral Health Examiners, and are educated and trained to work with a variety of problems. Many specialize, so it’s important to know which speciality the LPC you are interviewing works with – kids, relationships, depression, trauma? Many generalize, and it’s important to know that yours will have experience working with your unique issues.
PhD/PsyD = Psychologist. These professionals are also licensed, and have a Doctorate in Psychology (as opposed to LPC’s who are Master’s Level in Counseling and Psychology). Psychologists can do individual and couples therapy, and have an advantage of administering tests and batteries, aside from clinical work.
LMFT = Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Background in working with families and marriages, and workj in therapy with those populations. These professionals are Master’s level, and licensed by their state’s licensing board.
MSW = Social Worker. Social workers often do therapy with individuals and couples, and are Master’s level in education, trained, and licensed by the state in which they practice.
Life coach = Life coach. Life coaches are newer to the scene, and do not perform psychotherapy. Life coaches are not therapists, but can help you in areas of life management, goal setting and much more. They are not licensed by the State of Arizona, but are certified through private organizations.
MD = Psychiatrist. Many psychiatrists do not do individual therapy much anymore. They are trained medical doctors, who specialize in psychiatry and psychiatric disorders. They are who you want for medications (including antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications) and psychiatric problems and illnesses, and often times refer out for therapy these days.
Hope this little guide to decoding the search for a therapist helps you understand you you need to get to to help you and your problems. Remember: the most important element to counseling is the relationship that you develop with that professional, and it’s important that you know, like and trust the person you are confiding in and opening up to.