You have taken a huge step and decided to seek help. Now, it is important to find a therapist who you can trust when you feel vulnerable. There are so many options it can be difficult to know who to contact for help. Here are some factors to consider.
Education and Training:
A psychologist has the highest level of education and credentialing in mental health assessment and treatment. To earn a doctorate in psychology (either PhD, PsyD, or EdD) and licensure, a psychologist will have spent an average of seven years in education and training after college. Their entire training is focused on mental health assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health treatment. Since their primary training is done at medical school, they are in a perfect position to understand the biological aspects of mental health and prescribe medication. Some psychiatrists also provide therapy, but unlike psychologists, this was not their primary education focus.
There are also several masters level therapist licensure categories. These include Psychological Associate, LCSW, LMFT, and LCP. These degrees generally require two years of education post-college degree. Providers may also have specialized training designations. An example is CAC, which indicates a specialization in drug and alcohol treatment.
Education and training lay the foundation of knowledge for experience to build upon. Here are some general descriptions to help you choose the level of experience that you feel will be the best fit for you and your needs.
- Do you want someone young, fresh, eager to help, and least expensive? Then an early career psychologist with 0-5 years of experience may be right for you.
- Do you prefer someone with a solid experience base, motivation to continue learning, and a mid-range price? Then a mid-career psychologist with 6-19 years of experience may be the best fit.
- Or are you looking for someone with the sage confidence of decades of experience and you are willing to pay a higher price? Then you might want to look for a senior psychologist.
Also, don’t forget to look for specialties. Any licensed therapist should have a good general foundation, but you want to find someone who really knows how to help you. You will likely pay a little more for a specialized therapist, but it should be money well spent on expertise.
Choosing a therapist licensed in your state provides safety. It means that they have met and continue to follow the rules and regulations set out for appropriate psychological practice. Most states also require continuing education to make sure practitioners stay current in their training.
Of course, credentials and experience don’t matter unless you can build a good working relationship with your therapist. You want to feel safe and supported, while also having confidence that the therapist can help you heal and grow. A consultation with a potential therapist can help you choose someone who is the right fit for you.
Dr. Jody Draper Kircher’s Credentials
- Experienced mid-career, licensed since 2007
- Currently registered/licensed Ontario, Colorado, and Idaho
- Specializes in treating adults and adolescents who are struggling with anxiety and stress issues.
- Offers a free consultation
The American Psychological Association (APA) is a great resource with additional information on understanding psychotherapy and how to choose the right therapist https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/understanding-psychotherapy.aspx.