Choosing the right clinician for your needs is a complicated matter. There are some simple steps to begin heading in the right direction. It is important to understand your needs and what you are looking for. There are several different types of clinicians in the helping profession.

I want to start by explaining some of the differences in the types of clinicians in the helping profession. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in psychiatric treatment, and can prescribe medication. In today’s day and age, psychiatrists generally only prescribe medication and monitor its effectiveness. Often other therapists, if they determine medication is necessary or would be beneficial, will refer the client to a psychiatrist they work with.

Psychologists either receive a Ph.D. or a PsyD. Ph.D. programs are usually research based. PsyD. Programs are clinically based. Again, both psychologists have a doctoral degree. If you are in need of testing, in most states a psychologist is the person who is qualified to provide it. Testing can be psychological, personality, intelligence, and other testing. Many psychologists also provide therapy, and in fact this is their main focus.

In many states there are three licenses for clinicians with a master’s degree, but not a doctorate degree. One is a licensed mental health therapist. LMHCs provide many different types of therapy and have varied training. Licensed marriage and family therapists are another type of therapists. Although LMFTs are more clinically trained in theories more applicable to couples and families, they are still qualified to do most other types of therapy. The third type of therapist is a licensed clinical social worker. LCSWs training are often social in nature, but again, like other licensed therapists, they are qualified to do many types of therapy. There are several other specialties in therapy, which are of important consideration. In many states, addiction therapists as well as sex therapists are certified separately by the state. Hypno-therapists are also usually certified by the state, or a qualified school.

The next step is determining who can best meet your therapeutic needs. Therapists have different world views they use to guide the way in which they practice therapy. For example, psychodynamic therapists focus on your childhood, and discussing how your history is affecting your present. Psychodynamic therapy is usually of long duration, lasting years. One of the common shorter term therapies is cognitive-behavioral therapy. This focuses on recognizing fallacies in your thinking, and learning to use both challenges to your thinking as well as behavioral interventions to change the problem behavior. There are many types of therapists, even within the above categories. There are existential therapists, client centered therapists, family system therapists, those who engage in brief therapy, and many more.

My suggestion for finding a therapist suited to you is to first decide what you are looking for and how long you are willing to be in therapy. When you are looking for a quick solution any brief therapist can be of great assistance. If you want to understand yourself and why you behave the way you do, longer term therapy may be the best choice.

Another consideration in choosing a therapist is finding one you are comfortable with. Many people simply go with their insurance company’s referral. I do not believe this is the best tactic, although at times financial necessity dictates this avenue. Often friends or colleagues can provide a referral if they know of someone who is a therapist. There are websites that provide licensed therapists in your area. But as discouraging as this may sound, I suggest you get a referral and call the clinician. Often you can gather some information that might be helpful in making your decision before meeting them. Maybe they have a website you can peruse to learn more about them. If this is not practical, or if the phone conversation goes well or you like what you read on their site, you can have a session or two with the therapist and if he or she is not for you, seek another. Even if after more than several sessions you begin to feel you are not clicking with your clinician, discuss the issue with them, and if there is still no connection seek another therapist.

The therapeutic relationship is very important to progress in therapy. If you don’t trust, respect, relate to, and feel understood by your therapist, it will be difficult to commit to the process. A therapeutic relationship can be one of the greatest helping relationships in your life. But in order for this to happen, you have to find the therapist that is right for you.

Author's Bio: 

William Berry has worked in the field of addiction for over 15 years. He has been a Certified Addiction Professional since 1996. He has worked in nearly every form of addiction treatment available, including detoxification, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and traditional outpatient. He has worked with all types of clientele, from the inner city in Philadelphia, to the high functioning substance abusers of the South Florida area. Mr. Berry has over 12 years experience conducting group and individual therapy. Mr. Berry is well read in the areas of addiction recovery, psychology, and Eastern philosophy. He obtained a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology from FIU. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Florida International University, conducting a social psychology course entitled "The Psychology of Drugs and Drug abuse," and at Nova Southeastern University, conducting courses in Substance Abuse and the Family, and Interpersonal Communication. Recently William has developed seminars for reducing the risk of teenage substance related problems and for anger management. He has also developed a workbook for the outpatient program for which is director. The workbook is being revised for mass publication. William continues to be creative in his career to keep the passion for what he does alive.