How to Choose a Therapist or Counselor
What to Look For
Where to Find a Therapist
How Much It Will Cost and How Long It Will Take
What the Options Are
- Psychiatrists—Physicians who have completed medical school, and a residency in psychiatry. They are the only mental health professionals licensed to prescribe medications. Some may also provide psychotherapy.
- Psychologists—Have a doctoral degree (PhD, DPsy, DEd) in clinical, educational, counseling, or research psychology. Most states issue licenses. Psychologists evaluate and treat emotional and behavioral problems, and provide psychotherapy.
- Certified or licensed social workers—Therapists who have a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree. Their education and training level determines the type of services they offer. Social workers can assess and treat psychiatric illnesses, and provide case management and psychotherapy.
- Mental health nurse—Have nursing degrees ranging from associate's to doctoral degrees. They offer a wide range of services based on their education, training, and license. Some can assess and treat psychiatric illnesses, provide case management, and in some cases prescribe and monitor medication.
- Licensed counselors—Have a master's degree in psychology, counseling, or similar field with two years of post-graduate training. They have licenses issued by the state and offer services for individuals, families and group therapy.
- Behavioral therapy—This type of therapy looks to replace harmful behaviors with useful ones. It is often used in coordination with cognitive therapy, which is aimed at helping people recognize and alter distorted ways of thinking.
- Humanistic and experiential therapies—These therapies are based on the theory that people are growing and self-actualizing. Experiential therapists use emotionally-charged, experience-based techniques to effect change, while humanistic therapists concentrate on creating a safe place.
- Psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapies—These therapies explore unconscious conflicts and defense mechanisms that hinder adult behavior.
- Family therapy or family systems therapy—This type of therapy is concerned with looking at the dynamics of relationships within the family unit.
- Marriage and family therapy—There are certain patterns of behavior, conflicts, or dynamics that are characteristic to specific families or couples. These patterns will be addressed in therapy and worked on through the therapeutic process and its goals. The most important factor is the “set of relationships” that couples or family members are part of.
- Integrative or holistic therapies—Therapies based on more than one approach. Elements are blended from different theories to fit individual needs.
What to Expect at the First Appointment
What to Do If You Do not Like Your Therapist
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy http://www.aamft.org
American Counseling Association http://www.counseling.org
Canadian Psychiatric Association http://www.cpa-apc.org
Canadian Psychological Association http://www.cpa.ca
Different approaches to psychotherapy. American Psychological Association website. Available at: http://www.apa.org/topics/therapy/psychotherapy-approaches.aspx. Accessed January 13, 2015.
For a healthy mind and body talk to a psychologist. American Psychological Association website. Available at: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/talk.aspx. Accessed January 13, 2015.
Mental health professionals: Who they are and how to find one. National Alliance on Mental Illness website. Available at: http://www.nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Helpline1/Mental%5FHealth%5FProfessionals%5FWho%5FThey%5FAre%5Fand%5FHow%5Fto%5FFind%5FOne.htm. Accessed January 13, 2015.
Psychotherapy for depression. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 26, 2014. Accessed January 13, 2015.
Therapy and counseling. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/emotional-wellbeing/mental-health/therapy-and-counseling.html. Updated May 2010. Accessed January 13, 2015.
Understanding psychotherapy and how it works. American Psychological Association website. Available at: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/understanding-psychotherapy.aspx. Accessed January 13, 2015.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 01/2015 -
- Update Date: 01/13/2015 -