Therapy 101

October 4, 2022

Week 1: What is therapy and who provides it?

Some of you might think you already know what therapy is. See if this sounds familiar: “Therapy is for crazy people,” or, “Talking to people never solved anything,” or, “I’ve been to therapy before and it didn’t work.” A better understanding of therapy and the different types of therapists available might change your thoughts.  This article introduces you to the field of therapy and the types of therapists you might find.

What is therapy?

First, let’s talk about the field of psychology. Psychology can be defined as, “the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given context.” Perhaps a more easily understood definition is, “the scientific study of the mind and behavior.”   Psychologists are actively involved in studying and understanding mental processes, brain functions, and behavior.

With all this talk about the mind, I can see how one might conclude that only “crazy” people might need to see a therapist. However, the word psychology is based on the Greek word psyche which actually means “soul.”  Now there is debate about the word psyche, so we study what we can: mind and behavior.

Mental Health or Behavioral Therapy is about helping people make the necessary adjustments in life to have success or be free of emotional pain. This is done through learning skills and unpacking painful memories or patterns of behavior. In this regard, we are not much different than any other professional or expert that you see in order to make sure your body is in alignment and free of pain.  Similar to anything physical, people usually don’t seek services until they are in significant pain, and in our case: emotional pain, relationship pain, or life is overwhelming and they can’t function well on their daily tasks.

Side note: if possible, please seek out therapeutic treatment before you reach a breaking point. We can help you learn the skills to limit the intensity of the fallouts of life.

Who should I go see?

Levels of Experience

Now that you know about the field of therapy, who should you go see? Every therapist has their own unique letter combo after their name but what does that actually mean? How do you know you are getting the right kind of therapist for you?

First, let’s talk about levels of experience. When you meet with a therapist, you have three main levels of experience usually indicated by the letters after their name.

Level 1: Intern, sometimes indicated by a small i at the end of their other credential letters. This means that this therapist is completing their theory classes in a Master’s level program and they are beginning to work with clients.

Potential cons with this level: the therapist may not have a lot of experience with clients or you might feel they don’t have enough life experience to help you.

Potential pros with this level: they are usually cheaper to see so you save money; they are in classes so they know the evidence-based practices well; they are enthusiastic to help you with your problems; they are under the direct supervision of a fully-licensed therapist and therefore you get the benefit of two therapists for the price of one; you as the client can have an impact on what kind of therapist you need because feedback is very welcome to help improve the quality of new therapists entering the field.

Level 2: Associate, usually indicated with an A at the beginning of their credential letters or the lack of an L in front of their credential letters. This means that this therapist has successfully completed their Master’s Degree and has the equivalent of at least 1 year of experience working with clients. (We are so grateful for the people who met with them as Interns so they could reach this level.)

Potential cons with this level: they may still be young in the field and lack additional knowledge that comes from continuing education.

Potential pros with this level: they can work somewhat independently, but are also under the direct supervision of a fully-licensed therapist. While the prices will be the same for a fully-licensed therapist and an Associate level therapist, you are still getting the benefit of two therapists for the price of one, and insurance usually covers their services. Feedback is always welcome as they are growing to be fully-licensed and independent therapists. They are often passionate about their work and are in the process of refining what kind of therapy specialties they want to pursue in the future.

Level 3: Fully licensed, usually indicated with an L at the front of their credential letters or the lack of any other indicator for another level. This means that the therapist has completed their Master’s Degree, and has a minimum of 3 to 4 years of experience working with clients. (We are so grateful for the people who met with them as Interns and Associates to help them reach this level of competence.)

Potential cons with this level: you may get someone who is not a good fit for you or not really addressing the concerns you have.

Potential pros with this level: You can give them feedback to have your needs more clearly met; this therapist is an expert in their field, has had continuing education, and has specialties. If what you need is not being met and your therapist does not have the specialty needed to help you then please find another therapist that can. No hard feelings. We want you to make progress! Additionally, since this therapist level is fully-licensed, then you are paying for their expertise (and their services are covered by insurance if they choose to panel with those companies). If needed, to help you, fully-licensed therapists may consult with another therapist about treatment options or techniques for the symptoms you experience without giving away any of your personal information. This helps them know if they are acting ethically on your part and keeps them connected to the therapeutic community and are able to provide helpful referrals to you if you choose to discontinue meeting with them or need additional treatment modalities.

Professional Credentials

Now that you are familiar with the professional levels of therapists, the kind of therapist you want may be determined by professional credentials and specializations.

If you are seeking help with your family and relationships, you may want to see a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). Marriage and Family Therapists are trained to look at and navigate family systems. If you need therapy for your whole family or as a couple, these are the people best trained to help you. Some are qualified to work with families in their homes so that they can see troublesome behaviors and interactions in action and can help resolve issues more quickly.

If you are seeking help for yourself or in a couple, you may see a Clinical Mental Health Counselor (Utah), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), or Clinical Social Worker. These therapists are trained to work with individuals. LPCs, CMHCs, and CSWs in particular are trained in diagnosis and are able to coordinate with medical professionals about any mental health medications you may need. They are trained generally on a variety of issues experienced by individuals and knowing their specialties can help you narrow down your search.

If you are seeking more intense help or have someone who needs more support in daily living, you may find yourself working more with Social Workers. They are additionally trained in case management and often teach daily life skills to their clients.

Doctorate Level Credentials

Psychologists are doctorate-level professional counselors. They often have even more advanced specialties and have more education in clinical work and interventions.

Psychiatrists are specialists in mental health and mental health medications. They are trained to know what medications can help with which mental health diagnosis and know how to help you manage symptoms and side effects.

How do I find someone that’s right for me?

Resources for finding a good fit include but are not limited to:

  • referrals from family and friends who are also attending therapy services
  • which can help you narrow your search by your concerns and your insurance
  • talking with your insurance companies to find out who is in-network
  • reaching out to therapists in your area directly and requesting a brief consultation to learn more about a specific therapist’s methods, etc.

Know that you have options and we want to help you succeed.