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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wednesday's Words of Wisdom: Need Help? Be Careful When You Put Your Future Into Someone Else's Hands

Thought for the Day: Today is Wednesday which means it's time for Words of Wisdom. People often ask how to choose a therapist. There are multiple options available; however, they are not all equal. LCSWs, Psychologists and Psychiatrists are bound to legal, ethical and legal standards that coaches, fortune tellers, and unlicensed therapists are not. As the image above states, you could put a message in a bottle and send out an SOS. Then you would simply take the advice of whomever picked up the bottle at the beach. You could go to a fortune teller or tarot card reader and hear what they see in your future. They might make some accurate educated guesses based on what you look like and how you respond to their comments. You could hire a coach who could cheer you on, tell you what to do based on their life experiences which might be similar to your own. It might help or it might not. Or you could contact a trained professional therapist. Here's what I think...

As the image above states, if you are struggling and worried about your current life, by all means get help. However, don't be fooled by clever marketing that promises health, wealth, happiness and success by self proclaimed experts. You hire a coach to train you in a specific sport or activity in which they have excelled and been trained. As far as I know, life is not a competitive sport with clear training or that gives anyone expertise in "life." The parameters of coaching at best are limited to specific parts of life in which someone has knowledge. However, there is no clear training or oversight of their qualifications to be doling out advice. If you choose to see a coach be sure they know the limits of their ability to offer guidance.

On the other hand, there are many different levels of training in the field of mental health. The requirements at each level vary. Counselors with an Associates or Bachelor's Degree are usually not allowed to treat clients independently. Some clinicians with Master's Degrees in counseling, social work or psychology can be licensed. You must have a Doctoral Degree in Psychology to call yourself a psychologist and accept insurance reimbursement. Psychiatrists are physicians who have specialized in Psychiatry and can prescribe psychiatric medications. Licensure  requires different lengths of training from 4 to 12 years of education followed by supervised experience, formalized licensing exams, continuing education and required ethical practices. If a psychologist wishes to develop a new area of expertise, they need to take additional courses and get additional supervision in that area.

Too often, clients come to me after spending exorbitant sums of money on treatment with unlicensed counselors or life coaches who have not helped them resolve their issues. Be careful when you put your future into someone else's hands. Ask about their education, training, and expertise. Therapy is a process which will help you learn how to overcome the internal roadblocks that are keeping you stuck. Therapists will help you gain insight into your problems and find solutions that fit your specific problems. They will not tell you what to do, but help you figure out what is right for you and why you have not been able to accomplish things in the past. Although they will be supportive and encouraging, they are not just coaches or counselors trained for specific issues. Their training encompasses a much broader base of issues. They are also trained to know when to refer someone to another specialist if they are not qualified to deal with the issues you are concerned about, i.e., a psychologist will know when to refer to a psychiatrist for medication, if psychotherapy is not enough to overcome depression.

Not all licensed clinicians are as skilled or masterful as others, but they do have to abide by rules and regulations and continue to uphold ethical guidelines or they can lose their licenses. Do your research and understand who you are working with before putting your life and mental health into their hands.

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