Finding the Best Therapist for YOU

Finding a therapist that best fits your needs, personality, and budget can take quite a bit of time and effort. However, very little is ever accomplished without the trust relationship necessary for effective therapy, so use these three steps to assist you with your search for your perfect fit!


STEP 1: 

Determine Which Type Of Therapist Will Best Fit Your Comfort/Trust Level:


(1)          Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have completed their residency training in the physical and neurological foundations of emotional and mental disorders.  Psychiatrists follow a medical or biological model of treatment:  mental disorders result from physical dysfunction, and so should be treated medically.  Their level of education and training provides them with an in-depth knowledge of the benefits and limitations of specific types of medications in treating specific types of mental illness, allowing them to prescribe medication as a treatment modality ( 

(2)          Psychologists have earned doctoral degrees in philosophy (Ph.D.) or psychology (Psy.D.).  Clinical psychologists have the most rigorous training in theories and techniques of psychotherapy, and can administer and report the results of psychological testing.  Psychologists focus on the psychotherapy mode of treatment, working together with their patients to identify and resolve the negative thought and behavior patterns that are disrupting their quality of life through cognitive and behavioral intervention (

(3)          Social Workers focus on the social foundations of emotional and mental disorders.  Treatment plans involve all social aspects of their client’s lives and can include advocating and educating, teaching effective problem solving and coping skills, and providing direct links to essential community resources as well as counseling and protecting the rights of their clients (  Only licensed Social Workers can be approved providers in most insurance and managed health care plans: 

ü     CSW:  Clinical Social Workers must have a master's or doctorate degree in social work, with an emphasis on clinical experience. They must undergo a supervised clinical internship and have at least two years of postgraduate supervised clinical social work employment.

ü     LCSW:  The Licensed Clinical Social Worker has a graduate academic degree, has had supervised clinical work experience, and has passed a national- or state-certified licensing exam.

ü     LICSW:  A Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker has a master's degree in social work accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. This professional has also had supervised clinical work experience and has passed a national- or state-certified licensing exam.

ü     DCSW:  The Diplomate in Clinical Social Work is the highest distinction from the National Association of Social Workers. Recipients hold a master's or doctorate degree, have completed five years of postgraduate clinical social work as well as additional coursework, and have been licensed by the state or the Academy of Certified Social Workers (


(4)          Psychiatric Nurses comprise a growing segment of mental health treatment professionals. A Psychiatric Nurse is a registered nurse (RN) with a master's degree (MSN) who has been trained in individual, group, and/or family psychotherapy. Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) have a master's degree in psychiatric/mental health nursing. These nurses are eligible to be licensed as therapists and provide a range of primary mental health care services to individuals, families, and groups, and function as psychotherapists, educators, consultants, advanced case managers, or administrators. Many states require certification by a national body prior to practicing. Once licensed, APRNs are authorized to prescribe medications. (American Nursing Association)


Determine Which Therapeutic Approach Will Best Fit Your “Issues:”



(1)          Psychodynamic and interpersonal therapies approach psychological problems as a result of unresolved fears or inner conflicts about what we need, who we are, or how to relate to others.


(2)          Cognitive behavioral therapies approach psychological problems as a result of ineffective learned patterns of thinking and behavior.


(3)          Anger management therapies approach psychological problems as a result of unresolved issues involving traumatic or chronic anger.


(4)          Stress management therapies approach psychological problems as a result of unresolved issues involving traumatic or chronic stress.


(5)          Family and parent-child counseling helps families communicate and cooperate more effectively as they work on family relationship issues.



STEP 3: 

Use Effective Strategies To Find A Good Therapist:



(1)          Identifying Your Child's Needs:  both in school and at home, to give your therapist a best grasp the full dimension of your child’s issues.


(2)          Looking for Direct Referrals: from trusted physicians, other therapists, family members or close friends.  When a clinician is highly regarded, they are usually well known in the community.


(3)          Planning for Long Term Care: by making sure therapists are covered by your insurance or have a pay scale you can afford.


(4)          Verifying Credentials:  through the professional organizations that offer psychotherapist directories and reliably verify psychotherapists' basic qualifications:

ü     The American Psychological Association: 

ü     Obsessive Compulsive Foundation:

ü     Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies:

ü     Academy of Cognitive Therapy:

ü     Anxiety Disorders Association of America:

ü     American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:

ü     Psychology Today:


(5)          Scheduling a Consult Visit: to interview therapist yourself before you bring your child in.  Good therapists will welcome the chance to answer any questions you have in an engaged, responsive, straightforward, and professional manner:

ü      Discuss your child's issues with the therapist and find out what experience he or she has in dealing with similar problems.

ü      Ask for details on their therapeutic philosophy and treatment methods.

ü      Find out how the therapist establishes trust relationships.

ü      Make sure the therapist is willing to work with your child’s current physicians, especially if your child is on any medication regimen. 

ü      Discuss basic time estimations for progress.

ü      Make sure the therapist has a solid action plan for emergencies or crisis intervention.

(6)          Trust Your Instincts:  Children can only build effective trust relationships with unfamiliar adults they know their parents trust as well. If your child appears unnecessarily shy, uncomfortable, or upset around the therapist, find another therapist to fit your child’s needs.