Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do I need therapy?
My personal opinion is that everyone can benefit from receiving therapy, but I am definitely biased in making that statement. To be more specific, people might be considered to “need” therapy if they find themselves experiencing thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that they find significantly distressing, upsetting, or disruptive to their day-to-day lives. We all experience negative emotions, but some of us experience those feelings to a degree that we can focus on little to nothing else. If you are finding that your emotions seem to be “in charge” of you, instead of the other way around, it might be a good idea to look into therapy services.
2. What is the difference between psychologists, counselors, social workers, therapists, and psychiatrists?
These terms all refer to different types of mental health providers, distinguished from one another by their type of degree, training, license, etc. The best way to tell the difference between provider types is to pay attention to the letters after their names (i.e., MA, MS, MEd, MSW, LMSW, LCSW, LPC, LMFT PsyD, PhD, LP, MP, MD, etc.). My answers below will be specifically for licensed professionals, but many mental health providers are also pre-licensure/working towards licensure and receiving supervision for their work.
Psychologists – Licensed Psychologists (LPs) hold doctoral degrees, either a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). Most often a psychologist’s degree will be in clinical psychology, though there are other licensed specializations such as neuropsychology, counseling psychology, school psychology, forensic psychology, and developmental psychology. In Louisiana, Psychologists must complete 2-3 years of supervised practice after obtaining their degree before they can become licensed, and some complete additional training for even more specialized work such as medical psychology. Psychologists must also pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP) before becoming licensed and are required to regularly obtain continuing education hours to maintain their licensure. Psychologists typically offer psychotherapy services, formal psychological assessments/testing, or both.
Counselors – I use this term specifically to refer to Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs). These are typically clinicians with a masters level degree (usually MA, MS, or MEd), though some have doctoral degrees, who complete 2-3 years of required supervised practice and pass the National Counseling Examination (NCE). Counselors typically offer psychotherapy services but not formal testing/assessments.
Social Workers – There are two primary types of practicing social workers: Licensed Masters of Social Work (LMSWs) and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs). These professionals both complete master of social work (MSW) education programs, followed by the Association of Social Work Board examination (ASWB). LCSWs go on to complete supervised practice for approximately 2-3 years and then take the ASWB Clinical Exam, which allows them to practice independently in a clinical setting. LMSWs can perform similar tasks to LCSWs, usually psychotherapy services, but they are not allowed to practice independently/without supervision.
Therapist – As I understand it, this term is the most general and does not reflect a specific license type, at least not in Louisiana. An exception would be Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs), which are (usually) masters level providers with specialized training in marriage and family therapy specifically.
Psychiatrists – Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MDs) with specialized training in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of psychological disorders. Given that they are physicians, psychiatrists are able to prescribe medications for many mental health concerns. Psychiatrists also receive training in different types of psychotherapy and many offer these services to their clients in addition to medication management. In Louisiana, some psychologists (i.e., Medical Psychologists or “MPs”) receive additional training in psychopharmacology and have the ability to prescribe medications as well.
3. Is there a difference between counseling and therapy?
Based on my understanding of those words, not really, no. Aside from the distinction between a “counselor” (i.e., an LPC, described in another question) and a “therapist,” I think these terms are often used interchangeably. That being said, there is a TON of variation in therapy styles or treatment approaches, which are dependent on each therapist’s specific education, training, and professional experience.
To use myself as an example: My education program focused on developmental psychology (vs. clinical, counseling, school, neuro, etc.), I’ve been trained in cognitive-behavioral therapy and functional family therapy (vs. psychodynamic therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, etc.), and my professional experience has been providing therapy for adults and families (vs. younger children, couples, seniors, etc.) with concerns such as anxiety, depression, anger management, and oppositional defiant disorder (vs. substance use, trauma, learning disorders, eating disorders, etc.). Given my specific background, I’ve developed a treatment style that might be very different from another clinician, even one working in the same city as me. For more information related to my specific style of therapy and specializations, please refer to the ABOUT page.
4. What are the benefits of psychotherapy?
In general, therapy is designed to provide clients with a safe space to work through their negative thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and experiences without fear of judgment, rejection, or shame. My work specifically also seeks to improve clients’ awareness and insight related to whatever their presenting problems are, as well as the different types of skills that they use to manage their emotional symptoms. I sometimes tell my clients that going through therapy with me can be like going from driving a car with an automatic transmission to a manual/stick-shift: it can make them much more acutely aware variables and processes that they might not have been paying much attention to before, and it requires their active and effortful participation.
It’s extremely important to note that the outcome of treatment depends largely on clients’ willingness to engage in the therapeutic process, which may at times result in considerable discomfort. Remembering unpleasant events and becoming aware of feelings attached to those events can bring on strong feelings of anger, depression, anxiety, etc., and there are no miracle “cures.” I cannot promise that my clients’ behavior or circumstances will change, only that I will do my very best to support them as we work to understand their problems and patterns, and help them clarify what it is that they want for themselves moving forward.
5. How to find a good psychologist?
It’s pretty tough to try to explain how one finds a “good” therapist, because successful treatment outcomes are significantly linked to the specific connection between a client and their therapist (aka the “therapeutic alliance”). A large part of alliance comes down to compatibility or complementarity between a therapist’s style/theoretical orientation and the client’s personality, circumstances, presenting problems, etc. I don’t think it’s realistic to find a “one size fits all” therapist; you want to find a provider who is a good fit for you specifically. It’s not unusual for clients to try out multiple therapists before finding one that seems “just right,” like Goldilocks wanting porridge that’s not too hot or too cold, so you shouldn’t be discouraged if you feel like you haven’t found your “match” yet. As mentioned in another question, treatment styles are going to vary considerably from therapist to therapist, so it’s important for clients to do their research when looking at potential providers. I’ve described my treatment approach and specializations in the ABOUT section of this website in order to make sure that this information is readily available.
More general information related to finding a therapist can also be found in the Community Mental Health RESOURCES section.
6. Do you accept [specific insurance plan]?
Please refer to the ABOUT – Payment Options section for more information about insurance coverage for services.