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Carol A. Anderson, MS, MFCC
Licensed Marriage, Family, Child Counselor
A Center for Growth and Relationships

Finding The Right Therapist
A Guide to Inform You

Years ago, seeking help from a psychotherapist for mental, emotional, or relationship difficulties carried a stigma. Fortunately, for the most part, that stigma no longer exists. Many people seeking help from competent therapists are considered "normal" by any standard. They merely decided that they are no longer satisfied with some aspect of their life or relationships and recognize that there are trained experts who can help them "sort things out". The most important question facing them is,
"How can I find the right type of therapist for me, who is both competent and ethical?"

We currently have 4 different types of psychotherapists licensed to practice in California. These are Psychiatrist, Clinical Psychologist, Clinical Social Worker, and Marriage, Family, Child Counselor. Trying to decide which one of these would be the best for your particular problem can be confusing. I'll attempt to clarify the differences.

A Psychiatrist is a Medical Doctor (M.D.) who has a specialty in the field of Psychiatry. Certain types of illness, such as severe depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder (manic/depression), require medical intervention. This would take the form of prescribed medication, or in extreme cases, electro-convulsive ("ECT" or "shock") therapy. Only Medical Doctors can do these types of interventions. While some Psychiatrists perform psychotherapy, most prefer to do medical evaluations only and then brief monthly follow-ups. With the average hourly fee of around $160 or more, one can readily see why.

The second type of license in California is the Clinical Psychologist. This person must be at the doctorate level and serve a post-doctoral internship, as well as pass State Board exams. While they have training in psychotherapy, much of their training is in testing, evaluation, or research. Thus, if there is difficulty in arriving at a diagnosis, or special testing for IQ or personality is required, the licensed Psychologist would be the best choice. Average fees per hour are in the $90-100 range.

The third license in California is that of the Licensed Clinical Social Worker or LCSW. This license requires a Master of Social Work degree and 3200 hours of supervised experience. As in other licenses, the State Board exams must be passed. While there are many LCSWs who practice to psychotherapy, most of their training is in social welfare, agency administration, case management, adoptions, etc.

The final and latest license to practice psychotherapy in California is the Marriage, Family, Child Counselor or MFCC. This specialized license requires at least a Master degree in Counseling, 3000 hours of supervised experience, and passing the State Board exams. The MFCC specializes in relationships and the training they receive is almost entirely in psychotherapy and relationship theory. They look at problems from a "Systems" view or how the person is affected by their family of origin and current relationships. Fees are about $75-90 per hour.

Finally, another important consideration in picking the right therapist is your confidence in their ability. Ask if they will give you a complimentary session of 30 minutes to interview them. Ask to see a resume'. Ask about their background and experience, qualifications, and specializations. (Beware of the therapist who can work with any problem!) Are they a member of their professional organization? If they are not yet licensed, (they are supposed to tell you), do they have supervision, as required by law? Another good question is whether they participate in their own therapy? Most good therapists do! Also, what are their fees and financial policies? Can you afford weekly sessions? How comfortable do you feel asking these questions and how comfortable are they answering them? Do they appreciate your concerns? Your level of comfort is the third crucial factor in picking a therapist.

There are many excellent therapists in the community. Educating yourself and taking a few precautions, as suggested above, will protect you from those few who are not ethical or competent.

Remember, you are the consumer! You must feel both safe and comfortable if therapy is to progress.

If you reside in California and would like to find a Licensed Marriage, Family, Child Counselor in your area click here.

Carol A. Anderson, MS, MFCC
Licensed Marriage, Family, Child Counselor
Member of:

  • AAMFT - American Assn. of Marriage and Family Therapists
  • CAMFT - California Assn. of Marriage and Family Therapists
  • EMDRIA - EMDR International Association
  • IIRT - Institute for Imago Relationship Therapy

Call or email Carol today for an appointment for a consultation.
Receive an initial complimentary session when you mention this referral site.
Sliding Scale/Interns Available
Now located in North Fresno, CA
Phone (209)487-2444

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