How to Find a Therapist: Part II

April 28, 2010

There are many types of mental health practitioners and treatment available.  This blog will focus on the various types along with their strengths and weaknesses.  But, BUYER BEWARE.  Anyone can refer to themself as a “Psychotherapist” .  Seriously, anyone!  It is not a protected title.  Make sure you see someone who has a valid license in their area of practice.



Sigmund Freud, who invented psychotherapy was a psychiatrist.  Unfortunately, these days psychiatrists are not doing much in the way of therapy.  However, their strengths lie in treating symptoms with medication.  Some are very good at supportive counseling and they may have knowledge about therapy.  Some may have great experience with doing therapy but I find this is a small number amongst those in this group.  After the 1950s, when psychotropic medications became readily available for managing psychiatric symptoms, psychiatrists, who have degrees in medicine seemed as a group less interested in doing psychotherapy.

They may be expensive, and the time they spend with you may be as short as 15 minutes,  enough time to check on your symptoms to see if you need a medication adjustment. 

They can be an essential part, however, of working with a therapist.  Most research suggests that therapy and medication work best together when treating depression.

So your thinking, I need two doctors if I am depressed?  Well, maybe.  However, when in therapy you may meet with a psychiatrist far less often, maybe once per month or less.


You may do better in terms of one stop shopping with this type of practitioner, although they are able to prescribe only when they are supervised by a psychiatrist. They tend to have more training in and knowledge about psychotherapy from my experience.


These are medical doctors without training in psychotherapy.  They have an advantage in their extensive knowledge of brain functioning and many of them are quite adept at prescribing for what are considered today more biologically based disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD, along with depression.  They would refer you out if you need regular therapy and may only meet with you once every three months or so.


I am seeing more and more Primary Care Physicians prescribing psychotropic medication (medications for mental health treatment).  I think this may be a short-term solution, but these MDs are not specialists and you would do well to meet with someone who dedicates his or her practice to mental health treatment.



Clinical Psychologists are doctoral level practitioners trained for years in psychotherapeutic techniques.  They must complete an intensive internship for one year at the end of their academic training.  Thereafter, they must practice for several years under supervision in most places, before they may obtain a license.  In addition, they must pass a licensing examination to be licensed.  They usually have some background in brain function which they use often when doing psychological testing which may include intelligence testing, personality testing, or neuropsychological testing.


These are Master’s level practitioners who usually complete two years of theoretical and clinical training.  Some go on for further training in psychotherapy. Before licensing they must do counseling or psychotherapy under supervision for some time.  To be licensed they must pass a state licensing examination. They are able to evaluate the mental status of a child, her family, and her school situation.  They are able to treat behavioral problems in both the child and the family. 


This may be any of the above mentioned practitioners (including psychiatrists) who have gone for further training more specifically in the type of psychotherapy created by Freud, psychoanalytic.  In this type of therapy, close attention is paid to the early years of the life of the person and an effort is made to understand unconscious or blocked conflicts in the person that may get in the way of their functioning. Look carefully at the person’s credentials because they should be licensed.  Anyone can call herself a psychoanalyst.   (More about this is How to Find a Therapist: Part III).


They may be any of the aforementioned practitioners with special training in family dynamics.  They often believe that the best way to help a child is to help the family function better.  Many states have licensing requirements that include at least a master’s degree, two years of family therapy practice  under close supervision, and passing a standardized exam.


Most states require a master’s degree in counseling and two to three years of supervised practice in addition to their academic courses.  School counselors are specially trained to do counseling in a school setting.

**Part Three of this series will explore different types of therapy.

3 Responses to “How to Find a Therapist: Part II”

  1. […] Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)BlogTalkRadio Share Show Widget Posted by makeitplainonline Filed in Armed Forces, Finding a Therapist, Media, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide ·Tags: African American issues, African American mental health, Black Mental Health, How to Select a Psychotherapist, Mental Health, Psychiatrists, Psychoanalysis, Psychologists, Social Workers Leave a Comment » […]

  2. Recent Article on how Psychiatrists are no longer providing psychotherapy to patients:

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