Choosing a Therapist


Halifax Medical Center:
Psychiatric Center (Daytona Beach, FL)

The first major hurdle is over and you’ve decided that it is time to get some professional help. You look in the phone book under “Counseling” and instantly become confused by the different titles you see listed for counselors. The therapist’s specialty is often stated in the advertisement. So where do you begin to find the right therapist for you. The following is an explanation of the primary titles that counselor’s use and a brief description of the scope of their practice.

Psychiatrists will have M.D. after the name. These physicians receive the basic training required of any physician. After this initial training, there is specialized course work followed by a period of residency in psychiatry. The educational background of psychiatrists provides the basis for identification of biochemi­cal factors that cause emotional difficulties. Psychiatrists are the only “counseling” discipline who can prescribe medications as a result of their licensure.

Clinical Psychologists have Ph.D. after their names. Clinical psychologists complete a lengthy intern­ship in a clinical setting. Members of this discipline emphasize the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of individuals in psychological distress. Interventions used to help an individual include individual, group, marriage and family therapy.

Social Workers will display M.S.W. after their names. The persons have completed a Masters degree in Social Work. These clinicians focus on individuals, families or groups in social, work or communities. Members of this discipline are trained to deal with life crises, developmental problems and emotional problems that arise in social situations. LC.S. W. after a social workers name stands for Licensed Clinical Social Worker. These individuals have completed a substantial number of hours in the clinical area under the supervision of a licensed therapist and passed a written exam.

Licensed Mental Health Counselors, LM.H.C, are individuals who have completed a program with course work leading to a Masters degree. The emphasis of these types of programs is on working toward mental wellness and diagnosis of mental illness. Programs also prepare the practitioner to perform per­sonality testing under the supervision of a clinical psychologist. Eligibility for licensure also requires a substantial number of supervised clinical hours completed under a licensed therapist and a written exam passed.

Another closely related counseling discipline that is commonly found in the phone book is that of Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, L.M.F.T. As the name implies, the focus of this discipline is marriage and family therapy. These therapists have also completed a Master’s degree program and have obtained licensure after completing the clinical hours under a licensed therapist and passing the written exam. .

The final discipline of therapists commonly seen in private practice is that of the Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, A.R.N.P. The nurses who work in psychiatry have a Master’s degree in Psychiatric Nursing. In the State of Florida an A.R.N.P. can write prescriptions if they have the proper course work in preparation and are under the direction of a psychiatrist.

In order to choose a therapist, a person must decide what the problem is and what is to be accom­plished in therapy. The focus of many disciplines is similar. The most important thing in finding a therapist is establishing a trust relationship and being comfortable to work on problems.