How to Find a Therapist

The task of finding the right therapist can be a difficult one.  The average consumer is unfamiliar with the licensing and credentialing processes within the field of psychotherapy. First, let me caution you about what you do not want. Anyone can call themselves a therapist, psychotherapist, couple and sex therapist, and life coach. None of these terms is legally protected. You will need to do some homework to select a therapist who is well-qualified and a good fit for you. 

The most important credential any therapist must have is a license. A therapist may be licensed as a psychologist (Licensed Psychologist), a marriage and family therapist (LMFT), a counselor (LPC) or a clinical social worker (LCSW). There is no license for a sex therapist in any state.  All these terms are legally protected by the State. A license means the therapist has met the minimum standard to practice independently. 

You are probably looking for someone to help you with a specific problem. Additional credentials held by a therapist will let you know whether they have received training and are certified as competent by a national organization. Some of the most common additional credentials are to be a Clinical Fellow of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (www.aamft.org), a sex therapist certified by the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapist (www.aasect.org), or a Diplomate or Board-Certified therapist (e.g. American Board of Professional Psychology and the specific specialty Boards). Additionally, a therapist who has been a professor in a clinical program will have a greater depth of knowledge and be better informed about the research in their field.  The practice of therapy is considered both an art and science. Thus, experience, teaching, doing research and publishing scientific articles and books as well as the number of years in practice and the number of hours of therapy provided are useful pieces of information in assessing the qualifications of your therapist. 

Beyond the objective credentials, you will want a therapist who is responsive to your calls and has personality traits that fit well with yours. Interview your potential therapist over the phone or in person to make sure they are the right fit for you. A good therapist will be interviewing you over the phone to make sure you are the right fit for their practice rather than anxiously setting a first appointment.