In my last article, I talked about the reasons for seeking counseling. This follow-up article will focus on finding a therapist and what to look for in a good therapist.
To start off, all States have licensing requirements for therapists, social workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists. In most states, an individual does not have to be licensed to practice counseling but there are restrictions on how they advertise their counseling practice. A licensed professional is preferred because a certain level of experience and expertise is required to be licensed. Many states have different license requirements and you can check the licensing board website for your state to find out the requirements. In Oregon, where I am practicing, the licensing requirements are 2000 supervised client hours and passage of a State licensing exam. In most states, licensed professionals are also required to complete continuing education units (CEU) to keep their license current.
Here is a short checklist of questions to ask when seeking a therapist:
Are they licensed, type of license, and how long they have been licensed?
Is the therapist fully licensed or a registered intern?
What types of counseling issues has the therapist worked with?
Does the therapist specialize in certain issues or are they a generalist?
How many years experience does the therapist have?
What are their professional fees?
Are they offering a free consultation to perspective clients?
Fully licensed therapists will charge more for their license and their experience. Registered Interns are sometimes called pre-licensed professionals and charge less if you are trying to limit the cost. Interns are supervised by a licensed person and meet regularly with their supervisor. A therapist who specializes in your specific issue is recommended because they may have additional training in that area and be better able to help you. Therapist fees vary so shop around for the best deal. A free consultation will help the client decide if the therapist is right for them. It can also help the therapist decide if they are the best person to help the client or refer them to another more qualified therapist. Free consultations can be by phone or in person.
If you have and want to use your insurance, find out if the therapist can accept your specific insurance plan and what the copay amount will be if any. Some therapists only accept private pay clients and have a set fee or offer sliding scale fees based on what a client can afford. Make sure you know what the fees are before you schedule a first session. A good therapist will usually discuss fees with you before scheduling.
Lastly, therapists can have different licenses such as licensed professional counselor (LPC), marriage and family therapist (MFT), etc. States vary so find out what the letters after a therapist’s name stand for. Every state has a licensing board website where you can search by name and find out licensing information for an individual therapist. Many social workers are counseling in private practice and have similar training and licensing requirements. You can screen them the same as you would a therapist. My next newsletter article will focus on how to use the Internet to find a therapist.
Written by John Johnson