What is a Psychotherapist?
If you’re considering going to therapy, it’s common to have a lot of questions. Deciding to share a personal struggle with a person you’ve never met before can raise a lot of anxiety.
Thankfully, finding answers to these questions can help you feel more comfortable with the idea of going to therapy and meeting a psychotherapist.
But, what is a psychotherapist? And how can a psychotherapist help you? Let’s explore what a psychotherapist is and what they do.
First, it’s important to point out that many people in the world of psychiatry, psychology, counseling, social work, and therapy will often refer to themselves as a psychotherapist.
A psychotherapist can be used as a general term that includes any licensed professional that works in mental health.
For instance, a family counselor may be called a psychotherapist, and a psychiatrist may be referred to as a psychotherapist.
Even though these are two different jobs and areas of expertise, it’s not necessarily wrong to call both of these professionals psychotherapists.
What Credentials Should a Psychotherapist Have?
All practicing psychotherapists should have advanced degrees. Regardless if they’re a couples counselor, a social worker, or a psychologist, if they’re treating clients in a therapy setting, they most likely have some form of a graduate degree.
The only exception is a psychiatrist. Because a psychiatrist is able to prescribe medication, they must obtain a medical degree.
When searching for a psychotherapist, you might see a variety of different letters behind their name that will represent the area of their expertise.
For instance, MSW means a Master’s in Social Work, and a PsyD means they possess a doctorate in Psychology. These are all areas of higher education that can lead to a job as a psychotherapist.
The most important thing your psychotherapist should have is a license to practice psychotherapy in their state.
Getting licensed is an additional step beyond graduating with a Master’s Degree or Doctorate Degree in Psychology or any other field in mental health.
What Does a Psychotherapist Do?
In the simplest of terms, a psychotherapist conducts some form of therapy. Therapy comes in many different forms, but overall the general goal is the same.
A psychotherapist is there to help people heal and learn the tools they need to live a more positive and fulfilling life.
Regardless if you’re battling addiction, grieving the loss of a loved one, going through a divorce, struggling with a mental health disorder, or just need advice for handling a conflict, a psychotherapist can help.
Psychotherapists are trained in various forms of psychological approaches and methods to help people work through disruptive thoughts and behaviors that may be inhibiting them from moving forward.
Where Does a Psychotherapist Work?
Traditionally, a psychotherapist works out of an office for their private practice or some type of wellness center where multiple therapists are available in one place.
One fundamental intention of psychotherapy is making sure that a psychotherapist creates a safe and inviting environment for their patients, so their place of work often includes comfy couches or chairs, calming accents, and of course, privacy.
One new element of psychotherapy that’s gaining a lot of traction lately is online therapy. Through private easy-to-use online platforms, a psychotherapist can reach clients anywhere and anytime with a video session. Many people that are new to psychotherapy prefer the online realm because they can experience therapy in the comfort of their own homes.
What Should I Look for in a Psychotherapist?
When searching for the right psychotherapist for you, there are a few key things to look out for.
Most importantly, your psychotherapist should have a license to practice therapy in your state. This means that they’ve completed the right training and advanced educational programs to legally provide therapy and counseling to patients.
Next, you should consider your therapeutic goals and find a psychotherapist that specializes in that field. For instance, if you’re going through a divorce, you should look for a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).
If you’re suffering from addiction, you want to make sure your psychotherapist specializes in areas of addiction and recovery. When a psychotherapist has a lot of experience in the area of therapy that you’re seeking, the better your chances are at reaching your goals.
Finally, it can help to find a psychotherapist that meets your personality, values, and lifestyle. For example, if you’re religious, looking for a psychotherapist that’s familiar with your religion can help you see eye to eye.
Overall, you want to find a psychotherapist that you feel comfortable opening up to. If there are any inhibitions or if you feel like you’re holding back, it can make the course of therapy difficult. Always remember that your psychotherapist should make you feel secure and safe when having sessions together.