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    The events we bore witness to yesterday were reprehensible. It’s likely you felt anything from rage, to shock, to disappointment, to despair. With all going on around us (a global pandemic and civic unrest, only to name a few), it can be hard to know where to turn. A therapist can help you navigate uncertainty, learn better coping skills, and find hope. Read on to learn more about your options.

    How Do I Pick a Therapist?

    Psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist—most of us don’t really know the difference.  Even though these terms all refer to distinct professions, many people use them interchangeably. The common thread is that they are all mental health professions that aim to improve people’s lives and sense of well-being/wellness.

    The nitty grittyAll of these terms refer to someone who specializes in the study of behaviors, mental processes and brain chemistry. Meaning, how people interact with their environments and with other people, the emotional and cognitive processes involved in these interactions, and the biology behind brain and behavior. Practically speaking this means that such professionals will do a variety of things including diagnose disorders and/or problems, help people handle stressful events, overcome addictions, and manage illnesses.

    To help you navigate this selection process we have listed some explanations and tips below. We hope this will help you distinguish between the different types of therapists who are licensed to practice, and ultimately help you make a decision.

    A psychologist will have an advanced degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in psychology—specifically, a doctorate in Clinical, Counseling, or School Psychology. This advanced degree usually consists of 6-7 additional years of schooling (consisting of graduate school and clinical training) beyond the bachelor’s degree. In order to practice, a psychologist must pass a licensure process through the Board of Psychology. Once licensed, they diagnose and provide treatment for both acute and chronic mental health problems in an individual, family, or group setting. Psychologists also have advanced training in conducting psychological assessments for a variety of issues such as intelligence and personality testing and ADHD diagnosing.

    A therapist is someone who has completed an advanced degree in psychology, generally a master’s degree (M.S. or M.A.). This advanced degree usually consists of 4-5 years of additional schooling and training (graduate school and clinical training).  Master’s degrees have a number of different specialties and tracks including Licensed Clinical Social Work (LCSW), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT), Clinical Psychology, and Counseling Psychology. In order to practice psychotherapy, therapists need to complete extensive licensure processes through the CA Board of Behavioral Sciences.

    A therapist is someone who is trained to assess and diagnose mental health issues and use therapeutic techniques to help reduce symptoms and improve ways of thinking, feeling, and living. Each type of therapist (LCSW, LMFT) has specializations and typically provides supportive counseling in addition to more concrete interventions.

    Neither psychologists or therapists are medical doctors, and therefore cannot recommend or prescribe medications. Only a psychiatrist can do that.

    A psychiatrist also specializes in the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of emotional, mental, behavioral, and developmental issues. What distinguishes psychiatrists from other mental health professionals is that they are trained medical doctors (i.e. physicians) with a degree in medicine (M.D. or D.O.). This entails an undergraduate and medical degree, as well as a 4-year residency in psychiatry.

    Their focus is therefore on chemical imbalances in the brain, usually treated through the prescription of medication. While they can provide counseling/psychotherapy, psychiatrists usually prescribe medication and refer a patient to a psychologist or therapist. If your treatment entails both medication and psychotherapy, your psychologist and psychiatrist will usually work closely together to best support you.

    At California Counseling Clinics, we offer a team approach in order to give you the benefit of multiple clinician’s training & expertise.  Book an appointment to work with our team today.