Therapists Versus Psychotherapists
Dr. Randi Fredricks, Ph.D.
Most people are familiar with the terms “psychotherapist” and “therapist.” These titles help differentiate a counseling mental health professional from other types of therapists, such as a massage or physical therapist.
In mental health counseling, a therapist is a broader umbrella term for professionals who are trained and typically licensed to perform a variety of treatments and rehabilitation for people. Therapists can be psychoanalysts, marriage counselors, social workers and life coaches, among other specialties.
The Therapist’s Goal in Counseling
A therapist’s goal is to help patients make decisions and clarify their feelings in order to solve problems. Therapists provide support and guidance, while helping patients make effective decisions within the overall structure of support. When selecting a therapist, their education, licensing and professional credentials should be essential considerations.
The manner in which a psychotherapist approaches mental health counseling and their craft varies widely depending on theoretical background and personal preference. Generally speaking, psychotherapists and psychologists counsel individuals, families, and groups about psychological well-being. As you can imagine, this can cover a broad amount of subject matter since all the aspects of our lives—physical, emotional, and spiritual—affect us psychologically.
The Psychotherapist’s Theoretical Approach in Counseling
A psychotherapist’s theoretical approach has a lot to do with the school they attended. Other influences include special training, and certifications and, of course, the person with whom the therapist is working.
When describing the attributes of an effective psychotherapist, there are several characteristics that are highly desirable, such as empathy and compassion. It is a requirement for a successful psychotherapist to be able to understand his or her client’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. In addition, being non-judgmental is vital if the relationship and treatment are going to work.
If your psychotherapist judges you during counseling, you may not feel safe talking about a similar subject again. Finally, a therapist should have experience with issues similar to yours, be abreast of current research, and be adequately trained.
Aside from these commonalities, therapists approach counseling clients from slightly different angles, although the ultimate goals remain the same; to help the client reduce negative symptoms, gain insight into why the symptoms occurred, work through those issues, and reduce the emergence of the symptoms in the future.
About the Author
Randi Fredricks, Ph.D. is a practicing therapist, researcher and author specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, addiction, eating disorders, and related disorders. Dr. Fredricks is a best-selling author of several books including Healing & Wholeness: Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Mental Health a 650-page compendium and landmark publication that provides a comprehensive overview of complementary and alternative treatments for mental health, with information and research on their effectiveness for treating specific disorders. For more information on Dr. Fredricks work, visit her practice website San Jose Counseling and Psychotherapy.