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Therapists

An Overview of Who They Are and How They Can Help You

By

Updated April 25, 2012

Finding the right therapist for you can be a difficult task. Not only do you need someone that is qualified and has experience in treating eating disorders, but you also need a therapist who is a good fit for you and is someone that you feel comfortable with. On top of that, many people need to see at therapist who is covered by their insurance plan as well.

What is a therapist? Why do I need to see one?

A therapist is a mental health professional who is specially trained to provide psychotherapy. There are many subtypes of psychotherapy or simply therapy as most people refer to it. These include, but are not limited to, cognitive-behavioral therapy, intrapersonal therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, family therapy and group therapy. Therapy provides a confidential space for you to talk about thoughts, feelings, fears, relationships and other things as they come up. You will work with your therapist to change irrational thought patterns, build coping skills and recover from your eating disorder.

It is important to see a therapist in order to recover from an eating disorder as it can be an essential part of learning to identify and change irrational thoughts about food and weight. Research has also shown that it is important to see a therapist who specializes in eating disorders as well.

What do all of those letters after their name mean?

One of the most confusing things for clients who are seeking therapy for the first time is the variety of different degrees and credentials that are seen among therapists. Most therapists have either a masters or doctoral level degree and are licensed by the state they practice in. Unfortunately, each state and country uses different standards for licensure and may call someone a different title than the same person working in another state.

Each category or type of therapist differs slightly, but there is also a great deal of overlap in training. As such, there are probably a number of therapists in your area, all with different credentials who are each qualified to help you.

  • Psychologists: Typically, licensed psychologists hold a doctoral level degree which is designated by a PhD or PsyD. Some states do license masters level psychologists as well.
  • Counselors: Counselors hold either a masters level or doctoral level degree. Common acronyms for licensed counselors are LCPC (Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor), LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor).
  • Marriage & Family Therapists: Typically, marriage & family therapists (sometimes simply referred to as family therapists) hold either a masters level or doctoral level degree. Common acronyms for licensed marriage and family therapists are LCMFT (Licensed Clinical Marriage & Family Therapist) or LMFT (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist). Family therapists are specially trained in systems theory, which focuses on thinking about people and their problems in terms of their relationships or system. Family therapists are also typically just as comfortable working with individual clients as they are with couples and families.
  • Social Workers: Although many people think of social workers as connecting clients with resources, many are also trained in and specialize in providing therapy. They typically have a masters degree or doctoral degree. Common acronyms for licensure include LMSW (Licensed Master Social Worker), LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker).
  • Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MD) who have completed a residency or training in psychiatry. Although not all psychiatrists provide therapy (some only provide medication management), some do.

In addition to acronyms for degrees and licensure, there are multiple types of certifications which therapists can also pursue. These include CEDS (Certified Eating Disorder Specialist), CASAC (Certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor) and NCC (Nationally Certified Counselor). Each type of certification shows that a therapist has completed training and/or supervision in a specific area and have paid the fees which allow them to be certified.

If you have questions about what any of your therapist's credentials mean, don't hesitate to ask. They should be more than willing to explain what type of education they have and what the licensure and credentials they hold mean.

How do I find a therapist?

There are many ways to find a therapist but the process of finding one can seem overwhelming at first. Remember that you can always go to a different therapist if the first one is not a good fit for you.

  • Referrals and word of mouth are one of the best ways to find a therapist. You may want to ask your physician, clergy or school counselor for a recommendation as they often have lists of therapists they refer to. Family and friends can also be good sources of information.
  • If you are interested in using your insurance plan, then you may want to call your plan and find out the names of several therapists who are in-network with your insurance. Consider looking up the names of the therapists online. Many therapists have websites that provide you with more information about their experience and the types of clients they work with.
  • You may also want to consider looking in a directory of therapists online. Almost all professional organizations such host directories of their members. There are also directories which therapists pay to be listed in as well.
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  5. Eating Disorder Therapists: An Overview

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