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Disclaimer: This content is provided for informational purposes only. Such information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical issues or to provide direct medical advice. Content is not intended to replace a personal relationship with a healthcare provider. Information on this website represents the opinions of the respective authors and is protected under the laws of copyright and trademark. Information about my services on the website is for informational purposes only and nonbinding.

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Sarah Kate Venison, LMFT

25 Sylvan Road, South

Suite Y

Westport, CT 06880

Phone: 203-241-9044

Email: skvenisonlmft@gmail.com

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How do I know how to find the right therapist for me or my loved one?

Updated: Jan 4, 2019




A new year often gives us the motivation to find a way to make changes we have been thinking about, but have not been ready to address. If you have decided to find a professional to help you, or are interested in finding someone, where do you begin?


You might ask a trusted friend, call your insurance company or local social service agency. You might search the internet, looking for therapists that say they work with your area of concern. You might even find a few names using these tactics. Then what? How do you know what the letters behind the names mean? How do you know how that person is trained and qualified to help? Perhaps you are not sure what you need, or how to figure out who to ask for help? It can be overwhelming and confusing!


While there are some variations by state, there are some common types of providers you can find in your area. What do they do and how are they trained to help?


· Psychiatrists (MD) are medical doctors with a specialty in understanding, treating and medicating mental health and substance challenges.


· Advanced Practice Nurses (APRN) are nurses with special training in psychiatric work and can prescribe medications.


· Psychologists (PHD – Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology) or (PsyD- Doctorate of Psychology) have advanced degrees in psychology and specialize in different areas, including conducting testing for understanding learning disabilities, psychological disorders and treating these conditions. Some psychologists have specialized training in forensic psychology and do evaluations for the courts.


· Psychologists (PHD – Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology) or (PsyD- Doctorate of Psychology) have advanced degrees in psychology and specialize in different areas, including conducting testing for understanding learning disabilities, psychological disorders and treating these conditions. Some psychologists have specialized training in forensic psychology and do evaluations for the courts.


· Social Workers (MSW – Masters in Social Work, LCSW – Licensed Clinical Social Worker, LICSW- Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker) have masters level degrees and can focus on a wide variety of social work, including training to do therapy with clients, managing social programs, and community outreach.


· Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) have masters degrees with special training in working with “systems” and the relationships in them, from organizations to families and couples and individuals.


· Licensed Drug and Alcohol Counselors (LADC) have a certificate in working with those struggling with substances and the challenges of recovery.


When choosing someone to start with, remember that while these descriptions are about a person’s primary training, many in the mental health field go on to do more training and get certifications in specific areas or in treating specific populations. As a consumer, you have the right to ask for what you need. If you want some help with your child, ask if the professional you are considering has experience and training with children. If you are looking for help with anxiety or depression, ask if the person has experience and training with those challenges and so on.


Consistently, research shows that the working relationship you establish with your counselor or therapist is the best predictor of a satisfying experience. Go with your own reaction to meeting with someone and meet them for several sessions to ask the questions you need to, so that you can make a decision. Here are some suggestions for you to consider:


Does it seem like they have the skills and experience to help you?

Are they licensed in your state and for how long? (L in their title usually means they are)

Did you feel welcomed and heard?

Do you feel like you can establish a trusting relationship with this person?

Do they have practices and procedures that convey their professionalism to you?

Do they keep up with current practices and research?

Do they have regular supervision for their work?

Remember that you have choices. There are many caring, skilled people in the counseling field, so taking the time to find the right fit for you will go a long way to helping you take the next steps to your goals.


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