How to Find the Right Therapist

Once you have made the decision to seek treatment for your psychological and/or addiction concern, the next thing you will need to decide is with whom to treat.  You will also need to make this decision as you look for someone to prepare you substance abuse evaluation for your Michigan Driver License Restoration Hearing.

One thing to consider is the specialized background of your particular therapist.  It is also important for you to have a good professional relationship with the person you choose.

Keep in mind that the area of addiction medicine is very complex and does require specialization.  Also, and I know this is confusing to the public, training levels of professionals vary widely and the term “therapist” tells you very little about the person’s education level.

Master Degree Therapists:

People that have obtained master’s degree level training often call themselves counselors, therapists, psychotherapists, social workers or limited-licensed psychologists.  By Michigan law they may not call themselves “clinical psychologists” because this title is reserved exclusively for PhD level training.

Most master’s degree therapists have anywhere from 1 ½ to 3 years of graduate training after the college degree. You should also be aware that there are health care workers who do not have any or very minimal formal college training who can call themselves counselors.

Clinical Psychologist:

To add to the confusion, there are different kinds of clinical psychologists which depend on the type of specialized training.  Some PhD level psychologists have training that is geared toward research only while others such as myself have PhD training that is geared toward research and treatment.

Typically, clinical psychologists have over 10 years of higher education.  Clinical psychologists must complete a doctoral dissertation or independent full-scale research project as a requirement for the degree. Many clinical psychologists continue research and continue publishing research throughout their careers. At the early part of my career I did research and publishing in the area of cognitive behavioral therapy and addiction and treatment of addiction.  I now devote my practice solely to seeing patients.

After completing their “formal” training, clinical psychologists also must work in the field for one year in internship before being granted the final degree. Then they must pass a grueling state licensing exam which they cannot even take until they have been practicing in the field for two years after receiving their PhDs. In addition, many psychologists like myself, undergo even more training, such as my additional two year post-doctoral fellowship and year-long training for certification in cognitive therapy through the Academy of Cognitive Therapy in Philadelphia.

Finally, once they jump through all these hoops and can finally practice independently (whereas most other counselors, incidentally, can never can practice independently, but must always be supervised), PhDs generally partake in continued education to stay up-to-date on research and techniques to keep them on top of the field.

Because of all this dual training clinical psychologists are true “scientists-practitioners,” and the best always keep their pulse on the cutting edge of biological and psychosocial treatment research, while bringing the developments of science to you in the treatment office. Many clinical psychologists also serve as faculty members at major colleges and universities.

Knowing the background of your evaluator and/or therapist can help you make an informed choice of the best person to meet your needs, and can make a big difference in your treatment outcome.


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