5 Types Of Counselors That Can Help You And How To Determine Which One Is Right For You
By Abigail Boyd
Updated November 15, 2019
Reviewer Dawn Brown
Whether you're struggling with chronic stress, mental illness, emotional problems, or you just need someone to talk to, a counselor can help. A counselor will assist you in untangling your thoughts, relieving your worries, and learning 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 counseling that is available. Counselors can provide you with support, skills training, and other forms of therapeutic help. There are many types of mental health professionals available, and it's important to research which ones are beneficial to your needs to find the right fit.
Different types of counseling certifications offer varying levels of care. Depending on their credentials and training, your counselor may be able to assess, diagnose, prevent, and treat a wide variety of mental health conditions.
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 so you can choose the counselor that best suits your individual needs.
- Clinical Psychologist
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 abuse 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 can work in private practices, hospitals, or school settings. 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 type of therapy for conditions such as 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. These include private practices, clinics, hospitals, and schools. 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 in which they operate to provide services.
CSWs analyze an individual's home and family life, as well as 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 struggling 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)
The term Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) refers to a type of psychotherapy focused on the internal dynamics of couples and families. Treatment can involve both individual therapies for each affected family member as well as couple or group counseling where all parties are present.
LMFTs not only deal with family and partner conflicts, but also treat a wide range of complex issues, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse, and domestic violence. 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)
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 problems in the patient's life and working to find concrete, effective solutions.
Licensed professional counselors (LPC) operate much the same way as LMHCs. The two terms are often interchangeable, without significant differences.
A psychiatrist is a type of medical doctor capable of diagnosing, treating, and preventing a wide scope of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. They are required to hold either a medical doctorate (MD) or a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) degree. Psychiatrists have experience and training identifying and treating 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 as well as a set number of sessions in a calendar year. Many might want regular a yearly or biyearly assessment with a psychiatrist if you're prescribed psychiatric medications.
You'll usually start by seeing your therapist at least once a week. Your therapist 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 want to focus on areas of your life 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.
Struggling To Find A Therapist?
Easy access to affordable therapy is still problematic for many. 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. Depending on your location, you may be limited in your access to professional counselors. Some people may have difficulty with transportation to and from appointments. Those with disabilities may face additional barriers, as well.
When you're struggling with a mental illness, anxiety disorder, or ongoing stress, it can be hard to muster the motivation to seek counseling. Don't give up-instead, consider choosing online therapy.
The Benefits Of Online Therapy
Online therapy can address any barriers you may be struggling with by providing affordable, professional counseling that you can access at a time and place that is convenient for you. Online therapy can take several different forms, depending on your preferences. These include one-on-one video therapy as well as 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.
Many relationship issues, from communication difficulties to infidelity to divorce, can harm your mental and emotional health. In these difficult times, connecting with a counselor can help. Regain.us 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.