When it comes to finding a therapist or counselor to talk with, it is important to find someone you can talk to with comfort and trust. Like any other service, you might find the need to shop around. This topic comes from a recent conversation with one of our college students who is dealing with depression. She told me her therapist stated he “didn’t know what to do” with her. He felt she was too young to have experienced anything to be depressed about and went on to compare his experiences with hers. I can’t tell you how angry that made me!! How many other people are out there having to justify their emotions, having someone deciding “what to do” with them!!?

So here’s the scoop. Counselors and therapists are only human, too! When seeking someone for talk therapy, there are many things to consider. A counselor is someone with an advanced degree who is either a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) or Licensed Professional Counselor(LPC) or both. This means the person has passed state or national examinations and worked a required amount of time under supervision to insure he/she has the skills necessary to effectively provide therapy. A therapist has an advanced degree in psychology, social work or psychiatric nursing. The therapist must also pass required examinations and supervision for licensure. A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in psychiatry and prescribes medication. In some states an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse(APRN) or Psychiatric-Mental Health Registered Nurse- Board Certified(PMHRN-BC)can also prescribe medications. Currently psychiatrists are doing less therapy and focusing on medications, which means a person receiving therapy might see one person for talk therapy and another for medication therapy. It is important to remember that just because someone has certain credentials doesn’t mean he/she is a great therapist!

So, what do you look for? Make sure your counselor/therapist is licensed. Many counselors/therapists specialize in certain issues, such as anxiety disorders or addictions. You wouldn’t trust your heart health to someone who didn’t pass the medical board or mainly treats skin disorders, so be sure the person you choose is qualified to help you with your mental health needs. Many professionals offer a first consultation meeting free of charge to give both parties an opportunity to interview each other to determine if and how they can work together. When you’re pouring out your deepest emotions, you want and need to feel comfortable with your listener. Since there are several forms of therapy, be sure to ask your counselor/therapist what type of therapy he uses and ask him to explain it to you if you don’t understand.

Now…here are the “red flags” that indicate our student might want to consider changing therapist. We are human. We don’t need someone to “do something” with us. You “do something” with items, not people. This choice of words also implies there is something wrong with you. Each person is unique with very real experiences and emotions. It is not the job of a therapist to judge, compare or belittle a client’s thoughts or emotions. What is traumatic to one person may not be traumatic to another. That doesn’t mean either person is greater or lesser than the other. The basic purpose of therapy is to assist you in identifying the issues/problems that are interfering with fully living each day and learn how to deal with them more effectively.

As for depression, there has yet to be published any one specific piece of information that triggers depression for all people. The brain is a complex wonder of neurons and chemicals. Each person has relationships, emotions and experiences unique to him/her.

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