You’ve made the decision to go to therapy — great! Oftentimes, that’s the hardest step when it comes to taking care of your mental health. But if you’re wondering, “How do I figure out what kind of therapist I need?” then you’re not alone. Luckily, we’re here to listen to your needs and preferences and help you find the right therapist and care for you.
To help you understand a bit more, we’ve broken down the essential information below. We’ll tackle the basics of therapy and mental health professionals, and then get into a little more detail on what each type of therapy is most helpful for. Dealing with our mental health can be challenging enough, but finding a therapist shouldn't be.
What exactly is therapy and why do some people need it?
When we talk about therapy in this context, what we’re really talking about is psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is person-to-person treatment or management of mental health problems, disorders, and general mental health upkeep. Many people seek out a mental health professional for a specific mental health problem like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or addiction, but therapy can be a useful tool for anyone. There are types of therapy dedicated to relationships both familial and intimate, grief, loss, illness, breakups, work stress, existential crises, personal development, and more.
Nearly half of U.S. adults will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, but many of them still don’t seek treatment because of myths surrounding therapy. Let’s break down those myths:
- Therapy is only for crazy people. This is patently untrue. Therapy is for anyone looking for outside feedback and support. In this age of tech addiction and growing levels of societal loneliness, therapy will only become a more integral part of our everyday lives.
- You need to have a mental health problem to go to therapy. Therapy can be useful during many of life’s obstacles, not just for mental health problems. A good therapist can help you navigate life changes like moving, changing jobs, becoming a parent, improving your habits, and more.
- Therapy is for the weak. It’s a misconception that therapy is about whining. Confronting your feelings and working through challenging thoughts is difficult work. Going to therapy takes courage and should be lauded as a sign of personal strength.
- All therapists say is, “and how does that make you feel?” Movies and television have popularized the trope that therapists sit back and ask inane questions that go nowhere. The right therapist will create a more dynamic relationship with techniques learned through years of schooling and expertise, customizing their approach for each of their clients.
Many people need therapy to deal with mental health problems, but many others simply want an objective professional to help them navigate some of the trickier areas of life. Both are perfectly valid and excellent uses of therapists’ skill sets.
Why should I go to therapy?
Therapy can be useful to just about anyone. We often think that therapy is reserved for those with serious mental health issues, but that’s simply not true.
You may want to find a therapist to help you cope with a mental illness like depression or an anxiety disorder, but a therapist can also be helpful during a break-up, a stressful time at work, or even just to help you navigate your goals.
When using insurance to cover your therapy sessions, it’s important to learn the general number of sessions your insurance provider commonly approves. Length of care can vary by insurance provider and individual diagnosis — chronic mental health conditions are often approved for longer care than life transitions are, for example. When you go into therapy with a general idea of how long it is covered, it can be a motivating tool to remain focused on your goals in session.
Plus, seeing a therapist when things are “not that bad” can help prepare us for when life gets a little tough. In that way, therapy can often act as a type of preventative healthcare.
Research indicates that chronic stress can lead to the development of heart disease, and more than 75% of all physician office visits are due to stress-related ailments. Therapy can provide the tools needed to manage and alleviate some of this stress.
Once you know what you want to work on, it’s time to find someone who specializes in that area. There are as many types of therapists as there are reasons to go to therapy. Here is a breakdown of some of the common types.
What are the different types of mental health professionals?
Psychologists are similar to psychiatrists, but are unable to prescribe medication. In a scenario where they believe a patient would benefit from medication, psychologists typically have a working relationship with other psychiatrists and doctors to facilitate that conversation. Psychologists usually have a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D typically) and are trained in understanding how the mind and behavior correspond. You may see some psychologists listed as counseling psychologists and others as clinical psychologists — the primary difference is that a counseling psychologist helps patients to deal with more day-to-day problems, whereas clinical psychology may focus more on severe mental illness. That said, both are considered licensed psychologists and neither will prescribe medication. Two Chairs does not currently hire psychologists as our therapists.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Also called LMFTs, these types of therapists will examine and understand your behavior through the lens of social and relational contexts, as per their educational backgrounds and professional training. They have a master’s degree in either counseling or marriage and family therapy, and must pass their licensing exam in the state they practice in.
Licensed Professional Counselor or Licensed Mental Health Counselor
An LPC or LMHC has a minimum education requirement of a Master’s in Counseling, along with a great deal of training and state certification. Counselors like these can help people develop a better relationship with their mental health, learning strategies to cope with their emotions.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
LCSWs are usually referred to as clinical social workers or just social workers. They will have a Master’s degree in social work and have undergone thousands of supervised hours. It’s common to associate licensed clinical social workers with working in community related fields, but some of these social workers do maintain private practices.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MD or DO) who can prescribe medication to their patients, in addition to practicing psychotherapy. Two Chairs does not currently offer any psychiatry services.
For every type of therapist and every type of problem, there are even more types of therapy. Understanding the different types of treatment should help you in your search for the right therapist, but know that most therapists will employ a mix of these techniques for each individual patient.
What are common types of therapy?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of short-term therapy focused on changing how you relate to your thoughts and how those thoughts affect your behavior. CBT is not one technique, but encompasses some of the more widely known techniques like Cognitive Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and others.
- CBT might be right if: you are dealing with an anxiety disorder, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, or depression. Other behavior-based therapies can be useful for phobias, addiction, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD.)
Dialectical Behavior Therapy
DBT is a comprehensive type of cognitive behavior therapy. It is based on teaching problem-solving techniques and learning acceptance strategies.
- DBT might be right if: other types of therapy haven’t worked for you. DBT is often used to treat issues such as self-harm, eating disorders, destructive thought patterns, borderline personality disorder, and more.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) has been growing in popularity for years now. It’s a type of psychotherapy designed to treat the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other traumas. Make sure your therapist is certified to use this technique. Done right, it can be incredibly valuable and works well with other types of therapy.
- EMDR might be right if: you’ve experienced trauma or deeply stressful events that are causing extreme anxiety.
Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy
Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is another cognitive behavioral technique that employs mindfulness to help patients see and understand their negative thoughts, allowing them to gain some distance and alter how they react to those thoughts.
- MBCT might be right if: you suffer from recurrent depression, but MBCT can also be useful for many mental health issues.
Psychoanalysis has been used for years, and has been updated as many times as its been criticized. This is what most people think of when they hear the term “talk therapy.” It’s still a very common form of therapy and can be very useful for bringing unconscious problems to the surface to be dissected and resolved.
- Psychoanalysis might be right if: you have anxiety or self-esteem issues you want to explore further.
Psychodynamic therapy is rooted in psychoanalysis and is another one of the types of psychotherapy, but is a bit simpler. In this technique, your therapist will get to know your feelings, beliefs, and life experiences to help you recognize and change recurring patterns. It can be short-term (a few months) or as long as two years.
- Psychodynamic Therapy might be right if: you’re generally alright, but are struggling with your past and how it may be affecting your future. Psychodynamic therapy can be used to treat any number of issues, and may be woven into other techniques.
As stated earlier, most therapists will not limit themselves to only one of these techniques. But it can be helpful to have some knowledge of different modalities when you attend your matching appointment with us to get the most out of your discussion with your matching expert.
In addition to techniques, there are also many different types of arrangements. Here are just a few:
- Individual: This is the most common type of therapy and what we do at Two Chairs. All therapy will be one-on-one unless otherwise stated.
- Family: Family therapy can be valuable for all familial relationships, whether between siblings, parents and children, or other family members. You may see these practitioners referred to as marriage and family therapists.
- Couples: Couples therapy can be stigmatized as a sign that your relationship is falling apart, but it’s actually an incredible tool for developing a deeper bond or preparing for changes ahead. Many couples find value in this type of therapy when shifting responsibilities, like a change in the breadwinner or becoming parents.
- Group: Some group therapy deals with some form of substance abuse or addiction, but group therapy can also be useful for trauma, grief, and victims of physical abuse as well as learning skills to manage stress and anxiety.
- Therapy for certain life events: Some therapists specialize in very specific life moments including but not limited to medical issues, childbirth, divorce, death, impotence, infertility, and others.
- Online vs in-person: Since the pandemic, it’s more and more common for therapists to offer remote services via phone or video chat. There are many benefits to both in-person and teletherapy —at Two Chairs, we offer hybrid care to personalize care to whatever works for you, whether that’s seeing your therapist in person, from your couch, or a little bit of both.
Where to find the right therapist for me
There are a lot of common ways that people search for a therapist. Some of them include:
1) Asking friends and family.
Bristling at the idea of asking friends and family for a therapist recommendation is normal, but maybe there are a few people in your life that you would feel comfortable asking. If they recommend their own therapist and that makes you uncomfortable, remember that you can always contact that therapist for advice on who else they would recommend.
2) Calling your insurance company.
Most insurance providers can provide you with a list of therapists. You can even ask them to search for a type of therapist within a distance range of your home or place of work. With that list, you can simply look them up. Most therapists have websites that you can review on your own to see if they feel like a match, or if they have experience in the areas important to you.
3) Searching online.
The internet has opened up many possibilities for finding a therapist. Looking for web-based therapy, text therapy, and other digital mental health resources is now an accessible option.
4) Reach out to a local university.
Universities not only have many practicing mental health counselors on staff, but also many students at various levels of training. Remember that time practicing does not always equal better therapy — it’s about who you connect with and feel comfortable with.
5) Use a therapy database.
6) Make use of the network.
If you try all the resources above and you find some therapists and counselors who maybe aren’t the perfect fit because they don’t take your insurance or are far away, you can always ask those people for recommendations. They may know therapists who fit the magical bill of “near me” and “takes my insurance.”
Of course, these options all take a lot of work and time on your end, and it can get discouraging. That’s why Two Chairs exists — to help make finding the right therapist for you easier.
The first step in care with Two Chairs is to book a matching appointment, which is a 45-minute video call with a licensed therapist who is trained in matching clients with the right therapist. During the appointment, you will discuss your needs and preferences, and the matching expert will use their expertise to recommend a therapist who will be a good fit for you.
The next step in your well-being
Hopefully this guide has equipped you with a solid foundation in understanding therapeutic approaches and different types of mental health professionals you could work with.
Set aside some time for yourself to create a list of what you’re looking for from a therapist. We all have different parameters for what’s most important, and that’s okay. Maybe your top priority is someone who is near you, or maybe it’s more important that they have experience with a particular issue you’re dealing with.
There are many, many great therapists, and the most important thing is feeling supported and heard in your therapy sessions. Making that first appointment can be a crucial step toward a happier and healthier life.
If you’re ready to engage in care with Two Chairs and let us find the right therapist for you, book a matching appointment.