In my first two blog posts, I explained that psychotherapy is provided by a lot of different, official and regulated people. Including me.
I’ve been doing this for a long time. Back in the day, anybody (in Ontario) could be a psychotherapist. Seriously. My grandmother — who never went to high school, as she had to work for a living by age 15 — could have started a psychotherapy practice, had she felt so inclined. I bet she would have been pretty good, too.
Education and training are great; but they do not guarantee that someone will be a good therapist. However, they do allow a person to place a variety of fancy-looking clumps of letters behind their name.
I get to write my official-therapist name like this: Chris Lindsay, M.Ed., RSW.
You see? There are two letter-clumps right behind my name! Cool huh?
There are tons of these letter-clumps which are glued on — kind of like a tail — to therapist names. MA; MSW; M.Sc.; Ph.D.; CCC; RPC; RP; RSW; RMFT; Dip ATPPP; DCTP; CAPT… Honestly, there are a lot more, but I’m getting kind of tired of typing them all out, and I’m sure you get the picture.
Now, they do look sort-of impressive, I must admit. Mysterious. Important. You know what, though? I have met and worked with a number of people with no letter clumps (or maybe just one), whom I considered to be fine therapists. That was years ago, before regulation.
I’m not saying that letter-clumps are useless. There are some real risks and problems with letting absolutely anyone who feels like it practice psychotherapy.
What I am saying — specifically to people looking for a therapist — is: “Don’t get dazzled by the letters.” Having the longest letter-tail behind your name does not prove you are Therapist Supreme.
The letter-clumps are a starting point. They let you know that at least the person has put in some time, with some kind of school or private training institute. They did not just read a book or watch a few YouTube videos, and then think, “Well, that doesn’t sound too hard! I think I’ll give it a go.”
On the other hand, letter-clumps certainly do not tell you, “This is a very effective therapist, who is a perfect fit for me!” I would not recommend basing your choice of therapist exclusively on letter-tails, no matter how long or exotic.
Of course, not everyone has the luxury of choosing a therapist, I know. If you are fortunate enough to be in the position to choose, it is OK to do a bit of shopping around.
Ask some questions by phone or email. What is the therapist’s approach to therapy? How much experience has the therapist had with the kind of concerns and problems you want to work on? What kind of outcomes have their clients achieved? Ask if the therapist would be willing to meet briefly in-person, either for free or low cost, to help you determine if there is a good fit between you.
Doing so will tell you things which letter-tails just can’t.
- Business card: Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay