I happen to be a therapist who believes we could all benefit from therapy at some point in our lives. Therapy is a place to work on values, define purpose, strengthen relationships, learn coping skills, have a safe place to process emotions, and help with mood. Basically, if we need support, are struggling, or need a strength-based approach, counseling can help us. However, most people do not know where to start when searching for the right fit in a counselor.
Counseling listservs, such as Theravive, are a great place to start. Counseling listservs allows for perspective clients access to many different therapists near their zip codes. This allows the clients the ability to read a counselor’s specialty, licensure, provides a glimpse into their personality, the theory they practice, and education. These bios are an important part of finding the right fit. The field of counseling is extremely broad with many niches ranging from play therapy to trauma focused to couples counseling. Make sure to not just pick a friendly face, but to really explore if their specialty matches your needs.
Many therapists will allow for a free 15 minute consultation over the phone to make sure you are a good match. Some questions to ask to see if you are a good match include:
-Do you have any additional training in this area?
-What percentage of clients do you see in this specific area? This is particularly important for couples counseling, as this is a specific niche’.
-What are your available hours I can be seen?
- Tell me a bit about your treatment style?
Many people get confused with all the various licenses. I’ll do a brief rundown of what each of them means, but keep in mind these might vary a bit by state:
Psychiatrists: Psychiatrist are medical doctors with a medical degree (M.D., D.O.). After graduation, they are required to complete a minimum of four years to complete their specialty residency and fellowship. There is also a requirement for certification to complete an examination from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Psychiatrists tend to diagnose and prescribe and manage medication. Most psychiatrists do not offer traditional talk therapy, as the focus is on medication management, but some psychiatrists do offer this service.
Psychologists: Psychologists require a PhD in psychology (Clinical Psychology, Counseling Psychology, etc.). After graduating, psychologists need to pass an examination and many require a 1 year post doctorate internship to become fully licensed. Psychologists specialties range from diagnosing/evaluations, research, teaching at a university level, and clinical counseling.
Marriage and Family Therapists: A Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist requires a minimum of a master’s degree (M.A., M.S., PhD) in marriage and family therapy or a closely related field with a systemic focus. The programs typically range from 2 to 3 years post bachelor’s degree. Following the completion of the graduate program, passage of an examination is required followed by 2 plus years of supervision with half the clinical hours required to be a systemic focus (couples counseling, family therapy, relationship counseling). Marriage and Family Therapists specialties range from family therapy, couples therapy, and individual counseling.
Licensed Professional Counselor/ Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC): The name and requirements vary by state. Typically, a LPC/LPCC requires a minimum of a master’s degree (M.A., M.S., PhD) in counseling or a similar field. Their graduate programs typically are 2 to 3 years post bachelor’s degree. Following graduation, there is a requirement to pass an examination. There is a 18 month plus supervision process. Most counselors specialize in some form of counseling, such as individual, group, family, child, or couples counseling.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): Typically LCSWs have a minimum of a master’s degree in the area of social work (MSW). The graduate degree typically requires 2 to 3 years. Following the graduate degree, there is a requirement for passage of an examination. A LCSW typically requires 18 plus months of supervision in order to practice independently. A LCSW typically works with mental health issues, substance abuse, public health, school social work, medical social work, marriage and family counseling and counseling children.
Another thing to consider when trying to find the best fit is whether to use insurance or not. On the surface this might seem like an easy decision- why pay out of pocket if you do not have to? However, the treatment can differ a bit between private pay and insurance. For instance, most insurance providers require a diagnosis. For some, they do not want a diagnosis or paperwork to support the diagnosis. Additionally, many people seek counseling for a safe place to explore emotions or strengthen relationships, and do not qualify for services through insurance. Depending on the insurance plan, there may be a cap to how long the duration of sessions can be and how many sessions you are allowed. These are great questions to ask your potential therapist and insurance plan. Additionally, you can ask your insurance provider about out of network benefits to see if you qualify to get reimbursed for any services.
Some people have free counseling through their work through employee assistance program (EAP). The number of sessions is usually brief and topics typically range from personal problems or work-related difficulties that could impact their performance on the job and/or emotional well-being.
Many agencies offer sliding scale services for people who do not have insurance or choose not to use insurance. Sliding scale services usually depend on how much money you make annually and how many dependents you have. Sliding scale services make therapy more accessible to everyone.
Overall, finding a good fit with a therapist can seem overwhelming. A listserv is a great place to start. If you want more information, it is sometimes a great idea to ask a close friend or family member if they have any recommendations. Make sure to find someone that fits the area you are needing. Working on yourself is the best gift you can give yourself. Best of luck finding the best fit for you!