What is the difference among all the degrees, licenses, and acronyms for therapists? How do I choose?!
There are so many different levels of education, degrees, licenses and credentials for mental health providers. Some general differences are that Psychologists and therapists/counselors work through behavioral, cognitive, and emotion focused therapies; while Psychiatrists and Mental Health Nurse Practitioners typically only do medication management (there are a few exceptions such as states that recognize Psychologists who have received extra training for “psychopharmacology”). Psychologists (PhD & PsyD) are typically the providers that conduct assessments, such as psychological evaluations, ADHD and autism evaluations, personality testing, and disability evaluations. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) will typically have a strong focus on working with couples and families. Licensed Social Workers tend to have a very broad scope of work as their training includes looking at impact of mental health on communities as a whole. However, even with these general differences, therapists have a very wide range of areas in which they are really good at, and their effectiveness is more related to how good their educational program was (rather than what the degree was), how much relevant experience they have had, personality style, and how motivated the therapist is to be a life long learner!
While there are a lot of degrees (MA, MS, PhD, PsyD, MSW, MAMFT) and license designations (LP, LAT, LPC, PPC, LCSW, PCSW, LMFT), what you should be most focused on is finding a provider and agency that has experience with your specific concern, that has a strong community reputation, and that is responsive to you. If you or your family have multiple needs (eg- more than one person in your family wants help), finding an agency that can accommodate all of your needs in a single location may be very desirable. Having a team working with you can bring huge value, as you are getting the benefit of so many professionals at once! Additionally, scheduling may be easier instead of having multiple appointments all over town.
Lastly, therapists are not one-size-fits-all, and it is perfectly okay to discover that a therapist’s style of work or their personality just aren’t a fit for you. If you find this to be the case at Mind Spa, we will help you find a fit that feels better for you.
I’ve never talked to anyone. I’m used to handling things on my own. Aren’t people who go to therapy weak?
On the contrary. Asking for help when you need it is courageous. We were not designed to be islands in the world, and everyone needs help now and then (even you). You already have some strengths that you have been using, but for whatever reason they aren’t working right now. Maybe your problem feels overwhelming and is making it difficult to access strengths and coping strategies. In your therapy work, we’ll help you identify what those strengths are and how to implement them again in what is happening now.
Why is talking in therapy any different than talking to my best friend?
Your best friend has a vested interest in maintaining their relationship with you and they are emotionally tied to you. They cannot be as objective about your situation as your therapist, and your therapist doesn’t have to worry about being too “honest” with you and potentially losing your friendship. Your therapist is very specifically trained to help you approach your situation in a new way– teach you new skills, gain different perspectives, listen to you without judgment or expectations, and help you listen to yourself. Furthermore, therapy is completely confidential, and you won’t have to worry about others “knowing my business.” Lastly, if your situation provokes a great deal of negative emotion, if you’ve been confiding in a friend or family member, there is the risk that once you are feeling better you could start avoiding that person so you aren’t reminded of this difficult time in your life.
How does it work? What do I have to do in sessions?
Because each person has different issues and goals for therapy, therapy will be different depending on the individual. We tailor our therapeutic approach to your specific needs. In general, you can expect to discuss the current events happening in your life, your personal history relevant to your issue, learn and practice new skills, manage new insights, and report progress. It is also important that you are open and honest with your therapist. This can be a very scary idea for you, but remember that your therapist is an expert at being non-judgmental and they won’t throw your “stuff” back in your face. They will treat you with the utmost in care and respect.
How long will it take?
Forever. Ok, not really “forever” but that is often the fear. How long you are in therapy really depends on your specific needs and goals. Sometimes therapy can be short-term (4-10 appointments) when you have very clear and specific issues to resolve. Sometimes therapy is longer-term (3+ months) when you have more difficult and complicated issues to sort through and heal from. Either way, it is most common to schedule regular weekly sessions initially to make progress and get momentum, and then space them out as you see progress.
If I commit to therapy, what can I expect? How can I get the most out of therapy?
It is important to understand that you will get more results from therapy if you actively participate in the process. The ultimate purpose of therapy is to help you bring what you learn in sessions back into your life. Beyond the work you do in therapy sessions, if you are receptive to “homework”, we can offer you things you can do outside of therapy to support your progress – such as practicing relaxation skills, journaling on a specific topic, reading a pertinent book, noting particular behaviors or taking specific action on your goals. The more you invest in your therapy, the more you will get out of it.
My partner and I are having problems. Should we be in individual counseling or come together?
If you are concerned about your relationship and you and your partner would both like to work together, you are welcome to schedule an appointment together with your therapist. However, there are times in which it is more beneficial to work with each person individually. Your therapist will help you both sort out what would be best for you and your partner.