Therapist, Counsellor, and Psychotherapist are job titles for the same job. These titles do not provide the necessary information to choose a professional best suited to help with your issues or challenges. "Therapist" is used here merely because it is a common term used to describe professionals who provide individual, marriage, or family therapy or counselling. The educational background, training and work experience does however provide information needed to choose a Therapist who can provide the best help for your particular issues and challenges.
Therapists will most commonly have a graduate degree in Social Work (MSW) or a graduate degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). Therapists less commonly have a graduate degree in Counselling Psychology or Pastoral Counselling.
An important difference for many people is concerning insurance coverage. Insurance companies in Ontario only provide coverage for a Therapist who is a Registered Social Worker (RSW).
In addition, ask the Therapist about the specific treatment models he or she has learned in school or after school. For instance, a Therapist may have learnt CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) which is proven to help with anxiety and depression. In addition, ask about education or training in particular issues, such as trauma or addictions. Read more about the counselling skills which I use in my private practice.
Ask the Therapist about his or her work experience and years of experience, particularly providing therapy for your particular issue or challenge(s). Many Therapists have work experience providing counseling to broad range of issues, while others will specialize in one or a few issues, such as mental health, addictions, physical health, or eating disorders. Read more about the counselling service I offer in Kitchener-Waterloo.
“Some people come into therapy just feeling like something is wrong and they're not sure what it is. But some people really know; they've been struggling with anxiety; they have a relationship that is not going well. I think if you have some clarity about what it is you're seeking help for then that can help you look for a Therapist who specializes in those issues.”
“Sometimes there's particular cultural factors which are really important when somebody's working looking for a therapist. They may want to see a Therapist of a particular ethnicity, or even if the Therapist is not a member of a particular subgroup then the Therapist has expertise working with a particular subgroup; for example, around spirituality or substance-abuse or recovery. Maybe a Therapist has expertise working with gay lesbian or bisexual or transgender clients.”
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“A lot of people don't realize it's okay for them to interview a Therapist, and it's even appropriate for them to even develop a list of questions they want to ask a Therapist on the phone before they even schedule an appointment. They even may want to ask the Therapist about their experience working with a particular issue. They may want to ask the Therapist about their experience working with a particular community. You can ask a Therapist how many clients they've treated with this particular struggle. It's hard for people to ask these questions because they feel so vulnerable, but they have a right interview the Therapist and find out about the Therapist who they're coming in to see and pay money to get help.”
“A Therapists may take insurance and people need to get a list from their provider of the Therapists who are covered and look through that list. Many insurance providers will pay for out of network for a Therapist.”
“Do you feel safe with the Therapist? Do you trust the Therapist? Do you feel that the they understand you and even think that the Therapist likes you. Research has shown that that's a very important factor in treatment outcomes; whether or not the client feels like the Therapist likes them. But liking the Therapist you're coming to and bringing your most vulnerable concerns Is one of the most important pieces of a good fit with a Therapist. It's not just about expertise and experience. You want to feel safe going to this Therapist in opening yourself up.”