Choosing a Mental Health Caregiver

A quick guide to help you in your search for care that fits you best

Photo Credit: Cotton Bros Stuido



So, you’ve decided to see a therapist, what next? You begin to search the web–and invariably are confronted with all types of information. Information that may not be very helpful in determining who you want to pay, work with, and ultimately–allow into your life. 



How do you decide who to choose, and how do you know what type of therapy might fit you and your goals/needs best? 


Different types of therapy suit different goals, problems and personalities better than others–depending on the person, therapist and presenting issue. That clears things up, right? 


In this post, you’ll get an overview of the different types of healthcare providers, different degree and licensure types, different therapy modalities, and the various available platforms. 


We’ll go over pros and cons and what to keep an eye out for. Why? Because finding the right provider makes a difference. And what will make a difference for your wellness, matters. You matter. 




Types of Mental Healthcare Providers


In the mental health world, there seems to be endless titles for the many healthcare professionals. These titles are often used interchangeably, or erroneously–and can become needlessly convoluted. Let’s break them down for some clarity. 


  • Social Workers: Two or more years of graduate training. Titles include: MSW, LCSW, or PhD. 
  • Psychologists: Four or more years of graduate training. Titles include: PhD, PsyD, or EdD.
  • Counselors: Two or more years of graduate training. Titles include: LPC, LMHP, LCPC, LPCC, LCMHC, or PhD.
  • Marriage and Family Therapists: Two or more years of graduate training. Titles include: LMFT, LAMFT, or PhD.
  • Psychiatrists: Four or more years of Medical training. Title includes: MD.

Each profession has different degree and licensure requirements. Each profession differs in the framework and approach used to treat clients, but each profession provides what is known as “therapy.” Or,  talk therapy–which is what most of us think of when we think of therapy. 



Talk therapy is formally known as Psychotherapy–the terms are often used synonymously (more on talk therapy in the section below). 



The biggest key difference to keep in mind is the framework from which each profession approaches therapy. 


Marriage and Family Therapists are trained to think systemically–about how the whole system (family, social circle etc.) plays into the issue. Psychologists are trained to approach problems from the inside out–inter-personally, Social Workers have a broader, social focus, and are trained to approach therapy from a social connections perspective. Psychiatrists attend medical school and approach mental illness from a biological perspective, they can prescribe medications and also may choose to provide talk-therapy.  





There are many professionals, many different licensure tracks, and all are trained to provide psychotherapy/talk-therapy. 

Each profession has a different licensing board and requirements, if you’d like to know more, check out these resources:



Types of Therapy


Psychotherapy is a large umbrella, under which fall many types of therapeutic approaches, tailored to different styles, problems and based on various social and moral philosophies. 


What does Psychotherapy look like in action? It is the process of a client and clinician sitting together with the goal of processing, exploring and discussing problems, goals, traumas and other mental health or behavioral concerns through an ongoing dialogue.


Simply put, it’s talking.


You talk, your clinician will listen. And, depending on their therapeutic approach, they will structure the session, ask specific questions, or give in-session tasks and feedback. 


While it may not be realistic to become familiar with each therapeutic approach, from each professional/clinical background, it will be necessary for you to know what you need, what to look for, and what to ask for. 


Here are some questions to ask yourself, to hone your search:



  • What do I want to work on, what is my goal? 
  • What do I want out of therapy? 
  • What does my ideal therapeutic experience look like?
  • How long do I want to be in therapy, do I want a set number of sessions or an on-going relationship?
  • What am I willing to commit to therapy right now, how much energy do I want to give to the process?

It’s important to remember that there are many different therapy models and ideologies between the professions–what you need to know is, what you want to focus on and how you’d like the sessions to be structured. Some therapy techniques are incredibly structured, with an outline for each session, and a specific number of sessions, while others are structured around seeking to understand and sit with the client, without strict timelines. Some therapies give homework, others do not. 


Having a basic understanding of what to look for will save you dividends–in time, emotional effort and emotional wellbeing.  



The main therapeutic categories to be aware of include,  cognitive, humanistic, systemic and behavioral.


  • Cognitive: Focuses on thought patterns and internal-stories that drive behaviors. Present focused
  • Humanistic: Focus on the acknowledgement of how unique individual experiences shape people
  • Systemic: Focuses on how the whole picture affects the issue
  • Behavioral: Focuses on the underlying reasons for problematic behaviors

Many clinicians are trained to practice Integrative therapy. Integrative therapy is a mix of therapy modalities to fit specific client needs; it allows clinicians to create a treatment plan that is most helpful to a specific clients ’goals and needs. 





Finding the right therapist or mental health provider can be difficult without the right information. Knowing what titles mean, what licensing requirements and degree frameworks are, and  becoming familiar with common therapy approaches can make the process so much easier, and will enable you to much more effectively find a clinician who fits your needs. 




Next Steps

Want to your explore therapy options? The highly-qualified team at Aspen Grove Family Therapy is made up of Marriage and Family Therapists, Counselors and Social Workers. We are here to help. If you’d like to connect or have questions, please reach out. We would love to hear from you. 


(208) -258-7681

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