Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
What is a therapist?
A licensed therapist is a mental health professional that can work with individuals, couples, families, or groups in a therapeutic setting. Therapists have extensive schooling and training that allows them to do the deep, meaningful work that is therapy. There are many different kinds of therapists, and there are many different kinds of therapy. For example, there are marriage and family therapists, pediatric therapists, and people who specialize in specific conditions such as substance use disorder or eating disorders. Regardless of the issues they treat, therapists are skilled professionals who care about their clients.
What does a marriage and family therapist do?
A licensed marriage and family therapist or LMFT is a mental health provider that provides family therapy. Family counseling or therapy occurs when family members see a licensed marriage and family therapist or counselor collectively to work through conflict or concerns within the family. Family relationships can be complicated, but seeing a therapist can help. Family counseling is nothing to be ashamed of, and it doesn't mean that your family is broken or inadequate. Seeking family counseling simply means that you're dedicated to improving your familial bonds and that you care about having the best relationship possible with your loved ones.
What are some of the different kinds of therapy?
There are many different kinds of therapy. Some of the therapy types you may have heard of are CBT, DBT, EMDR, art therapy, music therapy, ACT, and more. A therapist may specialize in one or more kinds of therapy. The kind of therapy that you pursue and find helpful will be based heavily on the concerns that you are seeking help for. If you do not like your first therapist or the first form of therapy that you receive, don't give up. You can always try another therapy modality or see another mental health professional.
When should you see a therapist?
You can see a therapist for a variety of concerns. Maybe, you are diagnosed with a mental health condition, and you are hoping to develop new coping skills to use to manage the condition. Perhaps, you have family or relationship concerns. It could even be that you are experiencing a high level of stress due to work or school and need someone to talk to. Seeing a therapist or counselor is an excellent way to gain insight because they serve as an objective third-party that will support you in coming to conclusions about any life concerns you're facing.
What does it take to become a therapist?
If you want to become a therapist, there is a lot of schooling in your future. Licensure will vary from state to state, as will the number of hours of supervised practice needed to become a therapist. If you want to become a therapist, you will almost certainly have to get a master's degree at minimum. When you are looking for a new therapist and are preparing to see them for the first time, it is likely a good idea to check and see what their credentials are. This can help you gain an understanding of the level of education they've received and the knowledge that they have.
Do therapists ever see a therapist?
Yes! A therapist, just like anyone else, needs help from time to time. Being a therapist is an incredibly rewarding job, but it also comes with a lot of stressors. Many therapists have to deal with insurance companies and may face high fees for private practice offices. They also have family and relational difficulties just like everyone else. The best thing about going to therapy is that you get to talk to someone who will keep your information confidential.
If you're interested in seeing a therapist, you can find someone in your local area, or you can work with an online counselor. The online counselors at ReGain are here to work with you and help you flourish in your life and relationships. Online counseling is often more affordable than traditional in-person counseling, which is why many people decide to try working with a therapist remotely. Additionally, online therapy allows you to talk to a licensed provider from the privacy of your own home. Don't be afraid to reach out and talk to someone at ReGain today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What does a therapist do?
A therapist provides talk therapy to a variety of individuals and groups struggling with a wide range of concerns related to mental health, interpersonal relationships, life events or stressors, and more. You can find therapists in community centers, private practice settings, in residential or inpatient facilities such as those for substance abuse, and you can work with a therapist remotely online. Often, you will see a licensed counselor or therapist in schools and universities as well. You don't have to have a mental illness to see a therapist, but many people with a diagnosable condition see a therapist. Some therapists and social workers work to help inmates or have a job in a hospital setting. Therapists, social workers, and counselors work with people of all ages, backgrounds, and genders. If you find yourself experiencing significant stress, are struggling with relationships or family dynamics, have a mental illness or think that you might, or think that you could benefit from talking to someone for any other reason, seeing a mental health professional can help.
Is there a difference between a psychologist and a therapist?
If you decide to go to talk therapy, there are a variety of different mental health professionals you may encounter. You may see mental health counselors, therapists, psychologists, or social workers for talk therapy. You might also see a psychiatrist if you choose to take medication or want to get evaluated for a mental illness by a psychiatrist. For all guidance regarding medication, please consult a licensed medical professional. If you decide to attend talk therapy, you might not even know what kind of professional you're seeing unless you look at the abbreviated title by their name.
When it comes to the difference between a therapist and a psychologist, the most notable difference is that psychologists have the ability to diagnose and treat a mental health condition. In contrast, a therapist or licensed professional counselor cannot diagnose a client. Unlike a psychiatrist, however, a psychologist cannot prescribe medication. This is because a psychiatrist is a medical doctor with a medical degree, but a psychologist is not. Additionally, while most professionals who offer mental health services must attend graduate school, a psychologist may have a higher level of education than a therapist or counselor. A counselor will have a degree in counseling or psychology, and a therapist will almost always have a master's degree. A therapist must undergo extensive schooling, licensure exams, and supervised practice. The process of licensure for a psychologist, therapist, or counselor is lengthy to make sure that they have the skills they need. A psychologist is more likely to have a doctoral degree than a therapist, though a therapist can also obtain a doctoral degree. If you see a psychologist, it's likely that they will have PsyD or Ph.D. by their name. A psychologist can also conduct research as a career path.
Every mental health professional, including licensed professional counselors, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologist, and therapist, are essential to our communities. All of these professionals have a good understanding of human behavior, and when it comes to finding the right therapist or psychologist, the right fit for you will be highly individual.
What are the 3 types of therapy?
There are many different forms of therapy. There is group therapy, individual therapy, couples therapy, and family therapy. Three common types of therapy that we hear about are cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalytic or psychodynamic therapy, and client-centered therapy. However, the list does not end there. There are far more than three types of mental health therapy or talk therapy, including art therapy, music therapy, EMDR, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and dialectical behavioral therapy or DBT. Other forms of mental health care include family systems therapy, emotionally focused therapy (EFT), biofeedback therapy, and hypnotherapy. The form of therapy that you attend depends heavily on what you were going to therapy for, what you've tried in the past, if you're going on individually or with other people, and so on.
It's important to note that there are child and adolescent therapists who work with a wide range of modalities to serve children and teens specifically in addition to therapists that work with adults. People can seek therapy at any age. A common type of therapy used by child and adolescent therapists for young children is play therapy, but other modalities are used for children as well. Your therapy sessions won't look like your child's and vice versa; therapy is always conducted in a way that's age-appropriate.
Who needs a therapist?
Anyone can see a therapist. You can see a therapist for a variety of concerns, including:
- Relationship issues or concerns related to social relationships
- Mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, personality disorders, eating disorders, anxiety, or depression
- Familial issues
- Life transitions
- Confidence building
- Difficulty coping with emotions
- Grief or loss
- Stress management
You can also see a therapist when you're looking to develop new coping skills, work through a divorce, prepare for a healthy marriage through premarital counseling, and more.
What should I not tell my therapist?
There's nothing that you shouldn't tell your therapist. When you go to talk therapy, you are there to talk about what's on your mind. People attend therapy and other forms of mental health treatment to talk about and get help for a wide range of concerns, including substance abuse or substance use disorder, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, depression eating disorders, and more. People may also attend therapy to talk about stress management, difficulty with interpersonal relationships with friends and family, romantic relationships, and more. Anything that is affecting your day to day life is something that you can talk about with a therapist. Your confidentiality is important to a therapist, and there are, in fact, laws in place to protect your privacy whether you see a therapist remotely or in person. A therapist will never relay anything you say in talk therapy outside of your therapy sessions unless there is the potential for you to harm yourself or someone else.
Are therapists worth it?
Therapists are absolutely worth it. Research indicates that therapy is highly effective for a variety of mental health conditions and that it benefits couples and families who go through couples therapy and family therapy. Group therapy is also well-studied and effective. Research indicates that therapy helps people cope with stress and grief, among a wide range of other concerns. Finding the right therapist is important. To get the most effective therapy, you will want to find a therapist that suits your needs and who understands you. The first therapist you see won't always be the right fit. Although it's entirely possible to get a fantastic fit the first time around, if you don't, you can always ask to switch or go about finding the right therapist by looking into providers yourself.
To find a therapist, there are a variety of routes you can take. You can find a therapist by searching the internet for, "find a therapist near me," by using a "find a provider" tool or registry such as the one on the American Psychological Association website, or you can find a therapist by asking your doctor or another healthcare provider for a referral. Another way to find a therapist is to contact your insurance company and see who they cover. If you want to find a therapist who practices remotely, you can find a therapist who offers remote sessions near you, or you can go through an online therapy website like ReGain.
What type of doctor is a therapist?
A therapist, unlike a psychiatrist, is not a medical doctor. A therapist is a mental health care provider who helps people with mental and emotional problems or mental health care concerns, relationship problems, family dynamics, stress, trauma, emotional processing, grief, loss, and more. Each therapist will have a different background and specialty. Looking at a therapist's profile online or asking questions to see what population they work with, what modality they offer, and so on, is highly recommended.
Mental health and physical health are interconnected, and it's essential to take care of both. If you want your information from therapy, counseling, or psychiatry released to a primary care doctor, you will have to sign a release of information (ROI).
What happens during a therapy session?
During your first therapy session, you will talk about what you are there for. You and your therapist will generally establish goals together that you can refer to throughout the therapeutic process. In the following therapy sessions, you will talk to your therapist about your concerns and what's going on in your day to day life. For example, if you have a condition such as bipolar disorder or sleep disorders, you would update your licensed professional counselor or therapist on how things are going and bring up anything new that might be happening in your life, if applicable. You will work together to find what helps you in terms of managing symptoms or navigating concerns you have in your life. For example, if you get CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy, you might focus on reframing thought patterns to make them more positive. CBT is proven to benefit people with a wide range of conditions, including bipolar disorder, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and more. Additionally, if you go through something that causes you trauma or distress of any kind, you can talk to your therapist about the event. It feels good to be able to vent and talk about your concerns, and therapy improves many people's quality of life.
How do I pick a therapist?
Just like there are many forms of therapy or mental health services, there are many kinds of therapists. If you're seeking a therapist for a specific condition or concern, it's best to pick a therapist by looking for someone who specializes in that condition or concern. For example, if you're looking for a therapist that works with eating disorders, you'll want to find someone who specializes in eating disorders. In that case, you would search for, "find a therapist near me eating disorders," or "eating disorder therapist near me" online, ask your primary care physician for a referral, or ask your insurance company who they cover. It could also be that you are looking for a specific form of therapy, such as dialectical behavioral therapy or DBT, in which case you would search the internet or ask for a referral to someone who practices that form of therapy.
Let's say that you are searching for depression treatment. If that's the case, you might go to your primary care physician, explain your symptoms, and ask for a good therapist or licensed professional counselor to see for depression that might have an opening soon. You can also try an online therapy site, or contact your insurance company to look for yourself. Finding the right therapist is a process sometimes, and it can be frustrating, but it is worth it to find a good therapist who suits your needs and truly helps you. If you feel misunderstood, it might be best to switch, as is the case with most health care providers. One of the benefits of online counseling is that you get paired with a counselor based on your needs or concerns by taking a questionnaire. You can still ask to change providers if you want to see someone else, but you won't have to undergo months of waiting time.
What should I ask my therapist?
It depends on what you're talking to your therapist about and what you're in therapy to accomplish. You can ask questions about how a specific therapeutic process or modality works, how to work through or cope with a specific situation, or ask questions about any concerns you have about therapy and how it can help you in your daily life so that you feel good about moving forward. A therapy session is roughly an hour long most of the time, and that hour is your hour. If you ask a question such as, "what should I do when a family member crosses my boundaries?" or "how do I cope with something that triggers my eating disorder behaviors?" a therapist will guide you and help you talk through the question until you find what works for you as an individual. A therapist understands that mental health, as well as life, is complex. They're there to help you come to solutions, but they won't tell you what to do. Part of why therapy is so beneficial is that it gives you skills that you'll use for the rest of your life; the point isn't to stay in therapy or counseling forever, though you can see a counselor or therapist for as long as you want. Instead, it's to empower you and help you move through any obstacles that arise.
What should you tell your first visit to a therapist?
During your first therapy session, your therapist will likely ask you to talk about yourself, why you're there, and what you'd like to achieve. You don't have to share anything that you aren't comfortable with. Therapy is a place where you should feel secure and autonomous. A first couples therapy or family therapy session will be similar, but each family member will be given an opportunity to speak and introduce themselves (if they want to/are able to), or a couple will take turns to share their thoughts or share their thoughts collectively.
If you're in group therapy, your first session will look a little bit different. You'll introduce yourself and hear other group members introduce themselves, and you'll get an introduction as to what the rest of your group therapy sessions will look like. In some forms of group therapy, you'll share less about yourself and the personal details of why you're there than you would when you see a counselor or therapist one on one. Again, it's all about what you're comfortable with telling the group members and therapist. Many people see an individual counselor or therapist in addition to attending group therapy, but this isn't always the case.
A good therapist is compassionate and non-judgmental. Remember that therapy is there to benefit you and that, while some days in therapy may be vulnerable, it’s a highly rewarding process where you can tell your therapist about anything you want to talk about or work on.