Five Types Of Counselors, And How To Find The Right One For You

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry
Updated November 13, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

Whether you're living with chronic stress, mental illness, emotional concerns, or you just need someone to talk to, a counselor can help help you untangle your thoughts, relieve your worries, and learn helpful coping skills. Most people would benefit at one time or another in their lives from speaking with a counselor.

When searching for a therapist, you may be overwhelmed when it comes to the different types of available counseling. There are many available, and it's important to research which ones are beneficial to your needs to find the right fit.

The following are the most common types of counselors available to help with various mental and behavioral health conditions. This list can help you understand these terms to choose the counselor that best suits your individual needs.

Clinical Psychologist

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A clinical psychologist is a type of therapist with extensive training in assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental and behavioral illnesses. Clinical psychologists utilize research-backed therapy techniques, most commonly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), to treat patients with many conditions. These include depression, anxiety disorders, ADHD, OCD, trauma, and substance use disorders.

A clinical psychologist will usually schedule an initial intake visit to assess the patient's mental and emotional state. This process, which involves an interview, a recounting of the patient's relevant history, and possible testing, will allow the psychologist to determine if your symptoms meet the diagnostic criteria for any conditions.

 Psychologists are usually required to have a doctorate to practice. Since they do not hold a medical doctorate, they cannot prescribe medication.

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a type of psychotherapy that involves identifying and altering negative thinking patterns and replacing unhelpful coping behaviors with more effective ones. The individual learns how to mindfully recognize their thinking distortions and the impact they have on how they feel. Then, the client is taught how to replace their negative thinking with positive, empowering statements. CBT may also involve the teaching of problem-solving skills to help you overcome difficulties you may encounter.

Research has shown CBT to be the most effective therapy type for depression, PTSD, and anxiety. Many studies have shown regular CBT to improve symptoms of these conditions within 6-12 weeks significantly.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Clinical social workers can be found in many settings, performing both individual and group counseling. Clinical social work is a specialized type of social work focused on providing therapy for mental illnesses and behavioral issues. Clinical social workers hold a master's or doctorate in social work and are licensed by the state they operate to provide services.

CSWs analyze an individual's home and family life and their economic status and other factors to determine a clear picture of their situation. CSWs employ what is known as a "strengths-based approach," which combines these factors and an overview of the person's individual traits to create a specialized treatment plan.

What Is A Strengths-Based Approach in Counseling?

Strengths-based therapy is a positivity-focused therapy that concentrates on identifying a person's unique strengths and abilities. The therapist focuses on developing these strengths and improving the individual's capabilities and self-confidence. Many people living with mental health issues, low self-esteem, and negative thinking amplify their perceived weaknesses and flaws. This can keep an individual stuck in negative behavioral patterns.

Strengths-based counseling can work for many people to overcome their self-limiting beliefs and improve their outlook. By shifting the focus to a person's strengths instead of their weaknesses, they gain a sense of control and agency.

Licensed Marriage And Family Therapist (LMFT)

Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) refers to psychotherapy focused on couples and families' internal dynamics. Treatment can involve both individual therapies for each affected family and couple or group counseling where all parties are present.

LMFTs deal with family and partner conflicts and treat a wide range of complex issues, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, substance use, and domestic violence (call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE for help anytime). Sessions usually run for several months and are focused on establishing and reaching certain goals to improve the relationship between all parties.

Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC)

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Depending on the state, operating as a mental health counselor may require a bachelor's degree or master's degree in psychology. LMHCs work with the patient to establish therapy goals and ways to achieve them. This type of counseling may be more flexible and client-driven than other forms. The focus of therapy sessions is on establishing the patient's life problems and finding concrete, effective solutions.

Licensed professional counselors (LPC) operate much the same way as LMHCs. The two terms are often interchangeable, without significant differences.

Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist is a type of medical doctor capable of diagnosing, treating, and preventing a wide scope of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. They must hold either a medical doctorate (MD) or a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO). Psychiatrists have experience and training to identify and treat many conditions, including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, addiction, and complex comorbid conditions.

Since they are medical doctors, psychiatrists are the only type of counselor on the list that can prescribe medications. They may occasionally order lab tests for various reasons. Sometimes they may also offer other treatments, depending on your condition, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or Biofeedback.

In many practices, you may see a psychiatrist for your initial evaluation and diagnosis, as well as for the prescription of any medications, but then see another type of counselor for your ongoing therapy visits.

How To Find The Right Counselor

Connecting with the right counselor can take some trial and error, which has the potential to be discouraging. Don't be put off if it takes a while to find the right therapist. First, if you have insurance, inquire about the scope of your mental health coverage.

Most insurance plans will only cover certain providers and a set number of sessions in a calendar year. Many might want regular a yearly or bi-yearly assessment with a psychiatrist if you're prescribed psychiatric medications.

You'll usually start by seeing your therapist at least once a week. They should establish treatment goals from the outset and track your progress toward those goals during your therapy. You want to be able to speak openly with your therapist and feel understood and listened to.

You may feel nervous or unsure during your first few counseling sessions, especially if you've never participated in before. It can be hard to open up to someone you don't know about deeply personal issues. Stick with it. As you begin to trust your therapist and get accustomed to the process, you'll become more comfortable speaking about your issues.

It's not uncommon to not click with the first counselor that you see. Maybe they follow a different school of psychotherapy than you agree with or focus on your life areas that you don't find helpful. Always remember that counseling is for your benefit. If you don't feel comfortable with the first therapist you speak to, don't hesitate to explore your options. It may take a few tries to find the therapist that's right for you.

How To Find A Counselor Online

For some people, including busy professionals, stay-at-home parents, and full-time students, it can be difficult to fit in regular therapy appointments as it conflicts with their schedule. Some people may have difficulty with transportation to and from appointments. Those with disabilities may face additional barriers, as well.

It can be hard to muster the motivation to seek counseling when you're struggling with a mental illness, anxiety disorder, or ongoing stress. The right therapist can help you about your concerns so don't give up; instead, consider choosing online therapy.

The Benefits Of Online Therapy

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Online therapy can take several different forms, depending on your preferences. These include one-on-one video therapy and chat therapy, where you exchange messages back and forth with your therapist. With online therapy, you are connected with a counselor that you can message at any time, building a rapport that allows you to feel supported and understood.

From communication difficulties to infidelity to divorce, many relationship issues can harm your mental and emotional health. In these difficult times, connecting with a counselor can help. Regain offers professional, affordable online therapy for individuals and couples. We can connect you with a qualified counselor who is experienced and knowledgeable in your particular areas of concern.

Takeaway

Finding a mental health professional who specializes in concerns like the ones you have can be a great way to get help quickly and effectively. Knowing the differences and the options available to you can make this process easier, as can modern options like online therapy.

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