What Kind of Therapist Do I Need For Mental Health?

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If you’ve asked, “What kind of therapist do I need?” you’re not alone. 

Navigating the realm of mental health care can feel a bit overwhelming, especially when you’re unsure where to start. If you want to get help but feel unsure of where to begin, then this post is for you.

We’ll walk you through the different types of therapists and therapies available, giving you a clearer understanding of which might be the best fit for your unique needs.

At Klarity, we don’t connect you with just any mental health professional—we help you find the best possible therapist for your specific mental health needs. You can hand-pick a therapist that’s right for you and is licensed to provide all different types of therapy. 

Find a licensed therapist on Klarity today to find symptom relief from ADHD, depression, insomnia, or anxiety!

Different Types of Therapists

The world of therapy is vast, with numerous mental health professionals trained to help with various mental and emotional challenges. Understanding the differences between these mental health professionals can be instrumental in ensuring you get the right support.

Psychologist

  • Education & Training: Typically, a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in psychology.
  • Specialty: Diagnose and treat emotional, mental, and behavioral disorders using various therapeutic techniques. These mental health professionals do not prescribe medication but may work with those who do.
  • Ideal For: Those seeking to understand patterns in their behavior, cope with life changes, or address deeper emotional challenges.

Psychiatrist

  • Education & Training: Medical doctors (M.D. or D.O.) specializing in psychiatry.
  • Specialty: Diagnose and treat mental disorders, often using medication as part of the treatment. These mental health professionals can provide talk therapy but are uniquely qualified to prescribe and monitor medication.
  • Ideal For: Individuals with conditions that may benefit from medication, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)

  • Education & Training: Master’s or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy and additional clinical experience.
  • Specialty: Marriage and family therapists focus on relationships and interpersonal dynamics, often treating couples and families together.
  • Ideal For: Those facing relationship challenges, family conflicts, or wanting to improve family dynamics can benefit from speaking with marriage and family therapists.

Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)

  • Education & Training: Master’s degree in counseling or a related field, followed by clinical experience.
  • Specialty: A licensed mental health counselor addresses various mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, and relationship issues.
  • Ideal For: Individuals, couples, or groups seeking support coping with everyday life stresses or specific mental health conditions.

Licensed Social Worker (LSW)

  • Education & Training: At least a Bachelor’s degree in social work, though clinical social workers usually hold a Master’s degree.
  • Specialty: Offer support in navigating life challenges, from family dynamics to accessing community resources. Clinical social workers provide therapy for mental health conditions.
  • Ideal For: Those looking for guidance in accessing resources or support systems or individuals requiring therapy from a holistic, systems-oriented perspective.

Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)

  • Education & Training: A Master’s degree in counseling or a related field, followed by post-graduate clinical experience.
  • Specialty: Address various mental health concerns and emotional issues, from anxiety and depression to grief and life transitions.
  • Ideal For: Individuals or groups navigating personal challenges, looking to develop coping mechanisms, or seeking understanding about their emotional responses.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

  • Education & Training: A Master’s or doctoral degree in social work with additional clinical training and experience.
  • Specialty: This mental health professional offers therapeutic services to individuals, couples, or groups, addressing various mental health conditions. They also know social systems and can connect clients to necessary resources.
  • Ideal For: Those who not only want therapeutic support but might also need assistance with social services or community resources should seek out licensed clinical social workers

Art Therapist

  • Education & Training: Typically, a Master’s degree in art therapy or a related field.
  • Specialty: Uses artistic expression as a therapeutic technique to help clients improve mental health issues, explore emotions, reduce stress, and improve self-awareness.
  • Ideal For: Individuals seeking solace or understanding in artistic expression or alternative therapeutic methods.

Music Therapist

  • Education & Training: Bachelor’s or higher in music therapy, followed by a clinical internship.
  • Specialty: Uses music-based interventions to address individuals’ emotional, cognitive, and social needs.
  • Ideal For: People who resonate with music, whether through listening, singing, or playing instruments and want to integrate it into their therapeutic journey.

Understanding the differences between these professionals is a key step in your mental health journey. Each brings a unique perspective and skills to support various needs and challenges. As you read on, consider which type resonates most with your situation.

Common Types of Therapy

With so many therapeutic approaches, knowing which one is right for you can be a headache. Let’s explore some of the most common therapy types, how they work, and the unique benefits different types of person-centered therapy offer.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a goal-oriented therapeutic approach that centers on the interconnection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Individuals work with a CBT therapist to change undesired behavior and emotional responses by identifying and challenging negative thought patterns. 

Cognitive behavior therapy for depression, anxiety, and certain phobias is particularly effective. Benefits of CBT include learning tangible skills to manage stress, developing a more positive outlook, and achieving a better understanding of one’s behavior and reactions.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Originating from traditional psychoanalysis, psychodynamic therapy aims to bring unconscious or deep-seated thoughts and feelings to the conscious mind. By exploring past experiences, including early childhood, psychodynamic therapy helps individuals recognize and resolve recurring patterns in their behavior and relationships. 

This type of talk therapy benefits those looking to delve deep into personal self-awareness and understand the root causes of their mental health problems. The therapeutic relationship becomes a focal point, providing insights into how one relates to others.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavioral therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy developed to treat individuals with borderline personality disorder but has since proven effective for various mental health problems. It emphasizes acceptance and change, blending behavioral science with Buddhist concepts of mindfulness and acceptance.

Skills taught in dialectical behavior therapy sessions include emotional regulation, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and mindfulness. It’s especially beneficial for those with severe emotional dysregulation, suicidal thoughts, or self-harming tendencies.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR is a unique therapeutic approach designed primarily for individuals with traumatic experiences. The therapy involves recalling distressing events while receiving side-to-side eye movements, sounds, or tactile stimuli.

This process allows individuals to reprocess traumatic memories, diminishing their emotional charge and helping the person integrate these experiences more healthily. EMDR can be a game-changer for those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related mental health issues.

Family or Group Therapy

Family or group therapy involves sessions with multiple participants, be it family members or individuals sharing similar experiences or challenges. Family therapy fosters understanding, support, and open communication. 

Family therapy is valuable for addressing family dynamics, conflicts, or communication issues, while group therapy offers peer support and the opportunity to learn from others’ experiences. Knowing they are not alone in their struggles and hearing diverse perspectives can be immensely healing for many.

Selecting the right therapeutic approach for mental health care is a personal choice. Some individuals find success with a singular method, while others might blend elements from multiple types of therapy. Remember, the key is to find what resonates with you and aligns with your unique needs and goals.

Therapy vs. Counseling

The terms “therapy” and “counseling” are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct nuances in the world of mental health. At their core, both aim to provide support, understanding, and tools to cope with various life challenges.

  • Therapy tends to delve deeper into the root causes of emotional and behavioral issues. It’s often a longer-term approach that unpacks and addresses traumatic events, long-standing patterns, or deep-seated beliefs. Therapy can be a journey of self-discovery, healing, and transformative change.
  • Counseling, on the other hand, often focuses on specific issues or transitions, such as grief, stress, or career changes. It may be shorter-term, aiming to provide strategies and tools for coping with immediate challenges. Mental health counselors equip individuals with effective coping skills and perspectives to navigate life’s hurdles in the here and now.

While there is overlap, the difference lies in the depth and duration of the approach. However, it’s essential to remember that the best approach is individual and based on one’s unique needs.

Questions to Ask a New Therapist

Finding the right therapist takes some time and effort. Building a trusting relationship is pivotal for a successful therapeutic journey. To ensure you’re making the best choice, here are some questions you might consider asking a new therapist:

  • What is your therapeutic approach, and how would you describe your style?
  • Do you have experience working with issues similar to mine?
  • What are your qualifications and areas of expertise?
  • How do you set goals for therapy, and how will we measure progress?
  • What is your stance on medication as part of treatment?
  • How do you handle confidentiality and privacy?
  • Can you explain your fee structure, cancellation policy, and session lengths?

Remember, it’s essential to feel comfortable and secure with your therapist. Don’t hesitate to ask questions or seek clarity to ensure the partnership feels right.

Licensed providers on Klarity provide personalized treatment. Find a provider that matches your needs and preferences.

How Long Do You Need a Therapist?

The duration of therapy varies widely among individuals. Some may find what they need in just a few sessions, while others engage in therapy for months or years. The length often depends on the nature and complexity of the issues being addressed.

Short-term therapy, such as solution-focused brief therapy, might last six to twelve sessions. Such approaches target specific problems or decisions, like substance abuse or stressful life events.

On the other hand, long-term therapy, often employed for deep-seated mental illness, complex mental health issues, trauma, or exploration of patterns and self, can extend over longer periods. This could be anywhere from several months to several years.

However, it’s essential to note that the goal of therapy isn’t necessarily to remain in it indefinitely. It’s about gaining the tools, understanding, and self-awareness to move forward with resilience and clarity. 

Regularly evaluating your progress with your therapist can help determine the optimal duration for your individual needs.

Can Therapists Prescribe Medication Too?

The ability to prescribe medication is typically reserved for medical doctors or other healthcare providers (NP, PA). In the realm of mental health, psychiatrists, who are medical doctors specializing in mental health issues, can prescribe medication. 

Some states in the U.S. also allow advanced-practice psychiatric nurses to prescribe medication. Most therapists, such as psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, or licensed mental health counselors, do not have prescribing privileges. 

If a therapist believes medication could benefit a client, they usually collaborate with or refer to a psychiatrist or primary care physician who can assess the need for pharmacological treatment.

Common Myths About Therapy

Therapy has made significant strides in public perception, but some myths persist. Let’s debunk a few:

  1. Therapy is only for “serious” problems: This couldn’t be further from the truth. People seek treatment for various reasons, from life transitions and relationship issues to self-growth and mild anxieties. It’s a space for self-exploration and healing, regardless of the issue’s magnitude.
  2. Going to therapy means you’re “weak” or “crazy.”: Seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness. Everyone can benefit from a safe space to process emotions and gain insights.
  3. All therapists do is sit and listen. While listening is a significant component, therapists use various techniques and strategies to help clients navigate their emotions, patterns, and behaviors.
  4. Therapy never ends: Therapy is not an endless process. The duration depends on individual goals and needs. Many people find a resolution or achieve their goals in a matter of months, while others might benefit from longer-term therapy.

How to Determine the Best Therapist For You

Finding the right therapist is akin to forming any vital relationship. Here are some pointers to guide your search:

  • Understand Your Needs: Are you dealing with trauma, anxiety, or relationship issues? Knowing what you want to address can guide you to therapists specializing in those areas.
  • Research their Qualifications: Ensure they are licensed and check for additional certifications or specialties.
  • Trust Your Gut: A therapist’s qualifications are vital, but the personal connection is paramount. If something feels off or you don’t feel heard, seeking another therapist is okay.
  • Ask for Recommendations: Friends, family, or primary care doctors can be good sources for therapist recommendations.
  • Consider Logistical Factors: Think about location, availability, cost, and if they accept insurance.
  • Engage in a Preliminary Chat: Many therapists offer consultation calls before committing. Use this opportunity to gauge if it’s a good fit.

Hand-Pick the Right Therapist You Need On Klarity

On Klarity, we’re dedicated to connecting you with qualified mental health providers tailored to your unique needs. With a diverse range of specialists available for virtual visits, you can explore, connect, and embark on your healing journey from the comfort of your home. 

By understanding your preferences and concerns, Klarity helps you find a personalized match, ensuring you find not just any therapist but the right therapist for you. Your mental well-being deserves precision and care, which is precisely what Klarity offers.

Hand-pick your mental health provider on Klarity today.

Medically Reviewed By Dr. Zoe Russell

Dr. Zoe Russell received a dual bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, pursued a master’s degree in public health from Michigan State University, and received her doctorate in osteopathic medicine from Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2021. Currently, Dr. Russell is completing her residency training in family medicine and hopes to specialize in female reproductive and mental health.

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