Mental Illness

So You’ve Decided You Want To Go To Therapy…Now What?

Good for you, deciding to go to therapy isn’t always an easy decision, and it’s even tougher when you’re trying to figure out WTF all the acronyms and different types of therapy even mean.This is the first in a series I will be doing about how to find a therapist.  Today’s post is just the basics of different types of therapy and next week I’ll be covering how to actually find a therapist.  If there is more you would like to know, just ask in the comments or send me an e-mail and I’ll incorporate it!

You’ll probably see an acronym after a therapist’s name, here are the most common and what they mean.

PhD/PsyD – These are both psychologists.  PsyD’s aren’t as common but it’s the same as a PhD except their school was more focused on clinical work rather than research.

MSW/LMSW/LCSW – These are all social workers.  MSW’s don’t have a license but they have completed a Master’s in Social Work.  LMSW (Licensed Master’s in Social Work) have passed a licensing exam after their master’s and LCSW (Licensed in Clinical Social Work) has taken another test after completing a certain number of hours as an LMSW, usually around 3000 but requirements vary by state.  Sometimes you will also see them as just CSW.

MFT/LMFT – This is a (Licensed) Marriage and Family Therapist.  They have also completed a Master’s program and passed a licensing exam.  Despite the name, they aren’t exclusively for Marriage and Family.

Make sure your therapist uses one of these acronyms, otherwise you might get some schmo who paid $300 for a weekend class and is now calling themselves a counselor.  All of the above therapists are bound by ethics codes and guidelines.

Types of Therapy:

These are some of the more common, if you have a question about a specific type let me know and I’ll answer in the comments

Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Sometimes you’ll see just one or the other, but often they’re combined. Cognitions are thoughts, behaviors are actions – CBT works to help you change thoughts and actions that are having negative consequences for you. CBT is great for depression or anxiety, any disorder where you tend to have a lot of negative thoughts.  It’s also helpful for any problems relating to behavior, from biting your nails to compulsive disorders like OCD.

Psychoanalysis/Psychoanalytic Therapy – Sometimes also just called Analysis, this is your stereotypical lay back on the couch and talk about your mother therapy.  It can also be called talk therapy, but just individual therapy with no specific modality can also be called talk therapy.  Psychoanalysis is not as popular as it once was, but it has its benefits for people who really want to get down to the nitty gritty of learning about their unconscious.  Some psychoanalysis can be very intense, requiring a commitment of attending 3 or more sessions a week. It’s not as solution-focused as something like CBT, so it’s more helpful if you just want to talk without working on specific behaviors.

Group Therapy – Many clinics offer groups for people experiencing a similar condition.  Group therapy can be especially helpful if you feel isolated or alone, and you can learn a lot from others’ experiences.  The downside is that it’s not All About You, so you don’t get to spend the whole time focused on your problems.  You can go to group therapy on its own or in conjunction with individual therapy.

There are many therapists who do individual therapy with no specific modality, or they may incorporate different aspects of a variety of modalities into their work with clients.  Those can all be very helpful too, a therapist doesn’t need to fall into one of the above categories to provide effective therapy.

See you next week for: How Am I Supposed To Choose a Good Therapist?

3 replies on “So You’ve Decided You Want To Go To Therapy…Now What?”

As someone who is looking for a therapist for the first time and has no more information than a name and a number, I’m genuinely curious – what should I do instead of googling these names? Or do you mean “don’t google therapists and pick someone from there”?

And thanks for this series!

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