Choosing a Psychotherapist
Psychotherapy can be a life-changing experience. Finding
a therapist with whom you feel comfortable is very important. One of the reasons
psychotherapy is successful is the rapport that develops between therapist
and client. Taking the time to have a brief conversation over the phone with
potential therapists can help you make an informed decision. You may want to
know how long they have been in practice, and if they specialize in any
particular areas. This can include asking them about their views on topics
of importance to you. If you have a preference for a particular type of
therapy, ask if he or she has had training and experience in that therapeutic
intervention. But also trust your intuition. Does the therapist sound warm
and inviting? Is he or she willing to take the time to answer your questions?
Does he or she express confidence in being able to help you?
There are five types of mental health practitioners
licensed by the New Hampshire Board of Mental Health Practice, and two by the
NH Medical Board. Here is a brief description of each:
Clinical Psychologist: A
Clinical Psychologist has a PhD or PsyD in psychology, which includes
4-5 years of course work and a major research project. He or she
has completed an Internship and at least two years (3,000 hours)
of working with clients under supervision, and has passed a written
exam. The license of Clinical Psychologist has the widest scope
of practice for psychotherapists, including assessment, prevention
and treatment of emotional and mental disorders with individuals,
children, adolescents, couples, families and groups with personal,
social, emotional or behavioral problems. They are licensed to do
psychological testing and interpretation. Psychologists cannot prescribe
Pastoral Counselor: These are members
of the clergy who have specialized training in psychology and counseling. They
have a Doctorate degree, Clinical Pastoral Education, and postdoctoral
supervised experience. In New Hampshire they are licensed at the same level
as psychologists. Most do not provide counseling solely from a religious
framework, but it's important to ask about their religious orientation. Many
have a special interest in marriage counseling.
Clinical Social Worker:
A Licensed Social Worker has a Master's Degree in Social Work plus
1,000 hours of clinical placement and 3,000 hours of post-Masters
clinical supervision. They are required to pass a national written
exam. Their training focuses on social work, such as family intervention
and the welfare of children. They provide individual, group, family,
child, marital, and adolescent therapy. They often practice in family
service agencies, hospitals, employee assistance programs, and mental
Marriage and Family Counselor:
A Marriage and Family Counselor holds a Master's degree in counseling
and has completed 3,000 hours of supervised experience. They must
also pass a written exam. Their license allows them to counsel individuals,
couples, children, adolescents and groups with relationship problems.
Mental Health Counselor:
A Licensed Mental Health Counselor also has a Master's Degree in
Counseling, and 3,000 hours of supervised experience, and has passed
a written exam. Their license allows them to provide general counseling,
but their experience is often focused on a particular problem or
group of clients. They most often work in mental health centers.
These groups are licensed by the NH Board of Mental
Health Practice. They are required to have 20 hours of Continuing Education a
year, and to document peer supervision and/or collaboration with other mental
health professionals. They are the only professionals licensed in NH to provide
psychotherapy. If someone advertises as a psychotherapist and is not licensed
they are breaking the law.
Psychiatrist: A Psychiatrist is
an M.D. who has had 3 years of specialty training in mental disorders. A
board-certified psychiatrist has, in addition, practiced for 2 years and passed
the written and oral examinations of the American Board of Psychiatry and
Neurology. Most psychiatrists only handle evaluations and medication
prescriptions for patients. Some psychiatrists have taken further training to
conduct psychotherapy, and of those, most have been trained in psychoanalysis.
Medical continuing education is required to maintain their licenses.
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner: ARNPs
are registered professional nurses who have specialized training at the
Master's level or above. They conduct individual, family and group
consultation and education, and prescribe medication. A few are in
private practice, but most practice in hospitals, community mental
health centers and other agencies.