"Im interested in meeting with a therapist, but I'm not sure. Where do I start? Where do I look? How do I choose the right counselor for me? And what the heck do the letters at the end of their names mean?"
Finding the right therapist can feel overwhelming and confusing, not to mention frightening! After all, you will be sharing the most intimate of details with this person; a person you've never met! Knowing who to trust and who will be a good fit for you can take time and patience. But you don't have to do this alone! Luckily, I am here to help you navigate this process by giving you helpful tips and tricks (directly from a therapist!) to find the right provider for you. The most important thing to remember when looking for a counselor is that they are the right fit for you! It is important you feel safe and comfortable with you therapist in order to make healthy progress!
The first step to finding a therapist is to decide whether or not working with a therapist would be beneficial for you. This decision may take time. Considering potential goals you may have and that which you may wish to gain from the therapeutic process can be helpful. People seek guidance from a therapist for different reasons: these may include needing assistance processing difficulties in a relationship, making a change in your life or improving how you feel about yourself. No matter the reason, counseling can help you work through any concerns you may have!
If you decide to pursue therapy, you now need to know where to look. Looking for (and choosing ) a counselor is similar to finding a good movie to watch on Netflix: you will need to sort through all of your options, read descriptions about each therapist's practice and their approaches to the therapeutic process, and consider how well this information fits with your current needs and wants. However, finding the right counselor for you involves a greater level of investment and commitment. It is important to keep this in mind throughout this process. Working with a therapist is an investment in your future and a commitment to your health and wellness!
Therapy directories are great places to start. Online directories like Psychologytoday.com and Goodtherapy.org are two well respected organizations that offer a wide range of information about therapists across the country. I recommend using these sites as they allow you to access information in one convenient spot and also provide psychoeducation (a fancy word for learning about mental health) for those not familiar with mental health related topics. You can also consult with your primary care physician or even your insurance company. Both sources will be able to provide a referral to a reputable therapist in your area.
Whether you're looking online or at the script your doctor gave you (assuming you can read their handwriting!), you may notice a bunch of letters after the name of each therapist. LMHC, LCSW, PsyD...the list goes on! Each acronym is different and reflects the professional background and training of the provider. LMHC, for instance, stands for Licensed Mental Health Counselor (this is the license that I hold). This means I have completed all of the educational and experiential requirements, in addition to passing the licensure exam, mandated by the state of New York. All licensed mental health professionals, regardless of their training, must meet all requirements mandated by their state in order to practice. LCSW, LMFT, and LCAT are examples of other training backgrounds you may find. While a mental health counselor has training in general mental health concepts and approaches, other backgrounds may carry a more specific focus. LCSW stands for Licensed Clinical Social Worker: they are focused on mental health as well as case management and more global systems. LCAT's, or Licensed Creative Arts Therapists, are trained in helping individuals process mental health concerns through the use of artistic mediums such as visual, performance or written based forms. *For a full list of mental health licenses, please consult the document labeled Mental Health Licenses under Resources*
Remember: the most important factor in your success in therapy is the relationship you have with your counselor! Finding the right fit is essential!
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