You’ve done it. You’ve finally started the hunt for a therapist. And congratulations to you, for making it this far. Even just opening your laptop, and typing in the phrase “therapists near me” can be one of the most difficult mental barriers to get through. And what is your reward for your efforts? List after list of available therapists, all with different degrees, specialties, ages, genders, and so forth. The bright side is that you have such a diverse group of individuals to choose from. The down side?
How do you choose?
It can be extremely overwhelming, adding to a process that is already stressful, to differentiate between all of the mental health professionals advertised on the Internet or in any database. And while the ability to connect with to a person who will be assisting you on the rollercoaster ride of recovery is probably the most important, understanding what training a therapist has had can also give insight in the decision process. There are many different degrees that an individual can get within the realm of psychology, ranging from the almighty doctorate to the volunteer work done as a peer counselor. Let’s spend some time going over the basics of a few that you are bound to see in your search.
A PhD is generally more accepted in the world of psychology, but mostly when it comes to academic or research positions. For clinical work, both degrees are equal. One confusing factor: individual’s can get a doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy, social work, and counseling. These degrees are just more involved than a masters in the same.
Masters programs are typically a minimum of two years after the bachelor’s degree is obtained. When it comes to therapy, Masters programs come in a variety of flavors:
Peer Counselors and Volunteers
Last, but certainly not least, we have peer counselors and non-profit volunteers. While these individuals may not hold fancy degrees, sometimes their deep passion for their work and ability to empathize may make them equally or even more qualified than their pedigreed counterparts.
Now that we’ve gone over the basics of psychology careers, hopefully you feel more prepared to pick out a therapist from the endless lists online. Or maybe you feel just as confused, and that’s perfectly okay. The field of psychology is wide and vast, which only means there are many, many professionals ready to help you with whatever struggles you are going through right now. And once you’ve selected some options, you can get to the more important portion of the process: getting to know the therapist first-hand. So, go ahead, click a profile and get reading.
Disclaimer: a degree does not determine if a therapist is going to work for you as an individual. Its informative to know what training someone has obtained, especially if you have a particular issue you are aware of, but try not to write people off based on this information alone. Higher degrees ≠ better therapists.
Dr. Aaron Trinh, PsyD
APA (American Psychological Association)
This post was written by Lia Freitas as a part of the Therapy 101 collection. Please send any questions or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in writing about mental health? Join the Subconscious Contributors.