What is a psychotherapist?

A psychotherapist comes under the umbrella of different degrees and licenses but they must have at least a Master’s degree and be licensed or working as a qualified intern under a licensed professional.  Each state has different laws and requirements and you can learn more about your state by going to AAMFT.  In the state of Ohio, the license would be an IMFT (Independent Marriage and Family Therapist), LISW (Licensed Independent Social Worker), or PCC (Professional Clinical Counselor).  The psychotherapist would have at least an MA or MS/MSW.  The degree would be in psychology or social work and these courses would fit the guidelines of their state for preparing for licensure.

The psychotherapist is governed by a board who they earn their license through and who determines the state laws and ethics, as well as their own professional organization. 

The tricky part is that there are also religious clergy people and counselors who are often assumed to be psychotherapists.  They are not unless they fit the descriptions above also.  Religious people are able to counsel their parishoners or the public about issues of concern but these fall under different guidelines than that of a psychotherapist.  Counselors are another term for case manager and generally they are not a psychotherapist, although this term is also used by psychotherapists.

Psychotherapy is practiced many ways with practitioners using different methods and theories for practice.  There is body psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, EMDR, Gestalt, Jungian, brief, cognitive or cognitive-behavioral, humanistic, eclectic, transpersonal, holistic and many many more interpretations.  It is important that you find the right psychotherapy practice for you.  This involves researching the different interpretations, asking questions and telling the therapist what you want.  If the therapist does not practice in the theory you find of interest, they should give you suggestions of those who do or a link for finding someone in that field (if possible).  I’d advise researching on the web first before calling a particular therapist.  If you want a dance therapist, for example,  google this online and you will find the American Dance Therapy Association’s website.  There it will tell you how to locate a therapist.  This makes more sense to do this first rather than going to a general therapist website.  However, if you are not interested in a specialty and just want a regular therapist, you can go to AAMFT’s website, mentioned above and click on the family therapist locator button.

Everyone is different which is why there are various ways of practicing psychotherapy.  You need to find out which one will benefit you.  Some forms of practice – even though they seem interesting, might not be appropriate for your diagnosis.  This is something you should discuss with the therapist before beginning treatment.  Also, you have to be open to the fact that some states may not have someone who practices that form of therapy, especially smaller areas or rural parts of the state.

If you don’t like the psychotherapist it is important that you make this clear in a polite way before ending therapy.  You are paying for the service and if you wish to end the service the psychotherapist has a right to know.  The reason is two-fold.  1. It helps you to become a better person by communicating your needs. 2. It helps the therapist to become a better therapist by learning what works and does not work in therapy.  Just because the therapist has learned a technique, does not mean that it is the right one for them either. 

Even though you are ready to end therapy does not necessarily mean it is the right time to end though.  If the therapist does not feel that you are emotionally healthy enough to end therapy, they will question this.  If they are not the right therapist for you, that is one thing but you still may need to take their advice on continuing work with another therapist. 

The worst way to choose a therapist is to pick one that looks or reminds you of someone else.  If you go into a therapeutic arrangement with someone mainly because of this likeness, you will be setting yourself up to fail.  Example: Just because the therapist looks like your favorite Aunt Sally, doesn’t mean they are going to be like Aunt Sally.  Likewise, if the therapist looks like someone you can’t stand but you choose them anyway, you’re going to expect they will be like this person whether you mean to or not.

Choosing the right therapist means you have researched them and their style of practice online, just like you would any other professional.  You wouldn’t choose a lawyer who deals with business law if you were getting a divorce.  You would also research who might be the best lawyer for your case also. 

Your mental and physical health are the most important parts of your life.  A person cannot function unless they are well in mind, body and soul.  You owe it to your life to take care of the self and improve your daily functioning through preventative maintenance.


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