If you’re considering therapy, it’s important to choose a therapist with whom you feel comfortable. After all, you’ll be sharing intimate details about your life with them.
You’ll want to find someone who is knowledgeable and a good fit for your personality. Here are some tips to help you find a great therapist.
Therapists provide mental health services that address the emotional, behavioral, and social needs of patients. They work in a variety of settings, including private practices and community health centers. Generally, they treat individuals across all age groups.
Licensed therapists typically earn a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or the practice area they want to specialize in. They may also pursue a doctorate in psychology or a related field, depending on their educational and professional goals.
Most states require therapists to have a license, which involves passing a licensing exam and completing a certain amount of supervised clinical experience. This amount varies by state, but most therapists need at least 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience before becoming licensed therapists.
A therapist can be a psychologist, psychotherapist, or psychiatrist. Some therapists are certified to prescribe medications; these professionals often work in tandem with psychiatrists or other prescribing doctors.
Some therapists work in private practice; others are employed by hospitals, schools, or other organizations. Regardless of their specialty, all therapists work to help their clients overcome mental and emotional disorders.
The education and experience required to become a therapist vary by specialty, but most therapists begin their careers with an undergraduate degree in a discipline like psychology or social work. This allows them to build a strong foundation of knowledge and skills.
After earning a bachelor’s degree, aspiring therapists must complete a master’s program to obtain licensure in their desired practice area. These programs are often two years in length and culminate in the defense of a thesis.
During the course of graduate study, therapists must complete supervised clinical work under the guidance of other professionals. Upon graduation, many therapists pursue certification through the Counseling Association or the National Board for Certified Counselors.
Some therapists work in specialized environments, such as prisons or veterans’ organizations. These therapists must meet additional training and employment requirements, but they can usually start working with patients before they become fully licensed. Some therapists also specialize in treating specific patients, such as children or elderly adults.
When you go to therapy, you’re usually talking to a professional therapist—a person who is qualified to treat mental health issues. But therapists aren’t just someone who listens to you and tells you what to do; they’re also people who can help you learn to better understand your own feelings, beliefs, and relationships.
The therapist you choose can help you identify and work with past traumas, upsetting experiences, and difficult feelings. They can also help you improve your relationships, resolve conflicts, and learn how to deal with difficult situations more effectively.
During therapy, you may be taught to be more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and relationships; to be honest about the things you wish you could change but can’t; and to accept the painful realities of your life as they come along. Your therapist may guide you through these processes, but ultimately, you are responsible for how much progress you make.
Some therapists start out in the profession by being interns at mental health agencies or student therapists at schools. These beginner therapists aren’t ready to provide treatment independently, so they are required to undergo clinical supervision.
Graduate students who graduate from a master’s program can land a job at a mental health agency, and they may also be offered provisional licenses to become therapists. These therapists are also required to undergo clinical supervision, which is different from the kind of supervision that you would get at a job.
After graduation, some therapists move into the practice of independent counseling. This can mean becoming a licensed independent counselor or a private practitioner. In both cases, you’ll still need to have your own insurance or be referred to a licensed therapist.