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What is a Therapist?
What is a therapist?

There are different types of people who can provide you with therapy. Counselors, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. They should have some kind of degree representing the type of education they have received. The therapist may or may not be licensed, but should have a degree in the theories of psychology, psychotherapy, social work or counseling. Whether a license is important or not comes down to your own decision. There are many good counselors and social workers who are not licensed medical doctors, but who can still provide you with good therapy, as long as they have a degree. The only technical difference is that they cannot prescribe or administer medications. What is most important is that you are in a comfortable and safe environment, conducive to recovery, and with someone who can treat you effectively.

Psychiatrists (MD) tend to focus on admissions, diagnosis, evaluations and medication administration. There are psychiatrists who do and do not provide psychotherapy. Not all psychiatrists are trained in practical psychotherapy unless they have sought some kind of post-graduate education.

Psychologists (Ph.D.) are trained to apply a wide range of methods to assess the clients' needs for treatment and to develop programs of therapy. Psychologists tailor the treatment to the needs of the clients. Psychologists have been in the forefront in developing new and better treatment procedures and have an ethical responsibility to continue their education and maintain their competence.

Marriage, Family and Child Counselor (MFCC), Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) are not very different from psychologists depending on the state you live in (licensing issues vary from state to state). Most can provide the same level of counseling as a psychologist.

Marriage, Family and Child Interns (MFCI) or Marriage and Family Therapist Interns (MFTI) is exactly that, an intern. They are working in clinical practice to fulfill requirements they need to be licensed. They can see clients and all work are usually supervised by someone already in a licensed position.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) has a degree in social work with a strong clinical focus. They can make very good therapists because of the strong focus on psychoanalytic and psychodynamic theories in their education.

A Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in some states, is equivalent to a MFCC or LMFT, and is trained in counseling.

Types of Counseling Your Therapist Can Provide
(Theories of Psychotherapy)

Individual Counseling -

The ultimate goal of your therapy should be to recover! To learn to be more confident in yourself, to make your voice heard through communication, to validate your own emotions, to learn to love yourself, and to learn better ways of coping with anger, sadness and stress (and not rely on your Eating Disorder). You will spend many hours talking to your therapist about your childhood, your experiences, and your day-to-day life, and all of this is important to your recovery. There are many ways a therapist can work with you individually, and different therapists have different methods. The name of the approach is not as important as the methods used, so it will be important for you to discuss with your therapist your goals in working towards recovery.

Psychoanalytic: This is a clinical approach through interpretation, dream analysis, free association, analysis of resistance and transference. This all assists the client in gaining access to their subconscious; to the internal conflicts they may not be aware of, and in gaining new insights. There is a strong focus on repressed conflicts and less focus on social, cultural and interpersonal factors.

Nonpsychoanalytic (Jungian) Therapy: Self realization and learning to accept yourself as an individual, and to BE an individual is part of what this type of therapy is all about. It incorporates the idea of spirituality as an important role in discovering who you are. Generally, this approach is about making connections with your feelings and motivations and learning who you are. There is more a focus on the "big picture" and less of a focus on each day-to-day problem.

Cognitive-Behavior Therapy: This type of therapy works on the premise that thinking, questioning and doing (with practice) leads to the changes needed for recovery. Learning to change the way you think about yourself will result in changing the way you treat yourself. There is an eclectic combination of cognitive, behavioral and emotional techniques: changing negative thoughts to positive and pessimistic words to optimistic words. Using humor, role playing, and homework and word-work in attacking shameful feelings and feelings of guilt are combined with the effort to make changes in thinking and behaviors. The focus with cognitive-behavior therapy is that it is a "move-forward" approach and often lacks exploration of the deeper emotional issues that led to negative behaviors and thoughts in the first place. There can also be Behavior Modification Therapy on its own where as the client focuses on changing behaviors through practice.

Eclectic Approach - Combining All Theories: This is my personal favorite because it combines many aspects of all the above theories. A therapist that uses this approach will be able to attack many different issues over your course of recovery, including self-esteem work, past and present emotional issues, and day-to-day coping strategies. This is also the most commonly used approach in practice today by therapists.

Marriage and/or Family Counseling may also play a role in your recovery depending on how important it is overall to involve your loved-ones. Some level of counseling can help you all learn to communicate with one another so that you will feel heard, and to be able to express your emotions to each other in a safe environment. Once you have started your own therapy you may wish to discuss these options with your therapist and whether or not you both feel it will be important.

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