Let’s Talk About Therapy

For those of you unfamiliar with the mental health system or are unsure about therapy or whether or not a psychiatrist is a good idea, this post is for you.

For the rest of us, it’s also a good post for you. It’s a good post for everyone.

Anyone (with a degree and some version of licensing of course) can be a therapist. That could be a LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), a MFT (Marriage & Family Therapist/Master’s of Family Therapy), a clinical psychologist (Ph.D) or Psy.D (Doctorate of Psychology). A psychiatrist (MD) could as well, but many of them have zero background in psychology other than your average level of undergraduate study.

An LCSW and MFT will indeed make less than a Clinical Psychologist or Psy.D. Those two will generally make less than any Psychiatrist depending on where you live and what clinics each individual works. If you feel that someone with a Ph.D will be much more knowledgeable and better trained than an LCSW, you would be terribly, terribly wrong. In fact, the main difference between them is the amount of money they make.

Studies (and the lecture in my research course) have shown that credentials have no effect on success rate; that is, just because you have a Ph.D doesn’t mean your “clients” do better than an LCSW’s clients. That includes the M.D’s.

This might seem obvious: it depends on the clinician, right?

Wrong.

It depends on the techniques. If a clinical psychologist with a Ph.D is certified as an International Board of Repression Therapist (a non-scientific therapy) and their colleague in the office next to them is an MFT certified in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (a scientific therapy) and one client experiences IBRT and the other experiences CBT, chances are CBT will provide a hefty affect over the IBRT. Yes, there are other factors which play into this, some important ones being what the client is seeking support with and their drive level. Connection to the provider plays a role as well. However, speaking from a technical point, there is no solid (well-done) research supporting IBRT, and plenty of well-done research supporting CBT.

That doesn’t mean IBRT is useless. One day perhaps someone will come up with some verifiable, testable, and reliable data. But until then, I won’t be seeing anyone specializing in IBRT. The Inner Child exploration therapy is another “non-scientific therapy” and I’ll have a post on that later, as I have experienced it and have mixed reviews.

There are three basic differences between a Psy.D and a Ph.D.

  1. Scientific training.
  2. Clinical training.
  3. Cost

Colleges which offer Psy.D programs are by far much easier to get into and much less regulated. They also cost thousands of dollars more (unless you’re trying to get Ivy league training in which case good luck paying out of pocket for your Ph.D from Yale. I suspect school type also doesn’t correlate with client success rate) compared to your average Ph.D training.

There is a school which I had planned on attending back when I was ready to transfer for a Psy.D until I realized their training isn’t really based in any science. And psychology is supposed to be a science of the mind, right? (More on THIS in tomorrow’s post). The success rate was large, in the 80 percent or so, the school was still working on its accreditation, and the classes they required were scant. In fact, they didn’t really require anything other than a couple of psychology classes. They claimed integrated, client-centered approaches, which is great. And I’m sure once we have more actual data on the effectiveness of their techniques, that school will be booming.

I believe they got accreditation some months after I learned they weren’t yet accredited.

I have seen MFT’s, LCSW’s, Psy.D’s, M.D’s, and now my first Ph.D therapist.

And so how do you pick?There’s all these choices, all this research you have no access to, all these articles online pulling you this way and that and are probably based more in opinion than actuality.

I used to choose my therapists by their profile picture and their degree level. If they looked friendly and had a high degree from a reputable school, I’d try them. And every time I left them.

This time I tried a different approach. I searched for therapists in town at all degree levels. If they didn’t have a website explaining their practice methods, mission, and specialties, I did not consider them. If their picture seemed unfriendly or strict, I also did not consider them (and that’s a totally unscientific, personal preference). If they did have a website but didn’t meet my specialty requirements, I crossed them off too. If their website wasn’t fully developed or seemed unprofessionally dull or full of metaphysical intuitive opinions about nature and life, I also crossed them off.

I love philosophy and enjoy metaphysics. But I’m also aware that people with that mindset are more inclined to tell me “if you believe it, you can achieve it” and I don’t need cliche sayings. Believing the demons will go away will not make them go away. I need to learn how to work with them, not shove them off a metaphorical cliff that I created in my mind and watch as they tumble helplessly into the locked drawer which I also created in my mind. Not my type of therapy.

Now, if someone had a decent, updated website that laid out their specialties which coincided with my needs, what insurance they accepted (if any), their location, phone number, and a blurb about their practice and themselves, I’d investigate further.

I eventually came down to three people: two women and one man.

I eventually crossed off the man because he had been in practice for many years, thirty or forty, and while that’s not a bad thing there is also no notable effect between years of experience and better rate of client success. I’ll explain why in tomorrow’s post as well. The reason the years influenced my decision is because many still maintain old views of specific “disorders” and treatment methods. I refuse to see a psychiatrist who graduated in 1979 and below.

The two women: one was a LSCW and the other a Ph.D. Both had well defined websites and structure to their treatment methods. I went for the LSCW because the Ph.D had listed their G.P.A and grades and I considered that rather conceited.

The LCSW was on vacation and when she got back she called me to let me know she wasn’t accepting new patients.

As disappointing as that was, my last choice was the Ph.D. I was nervous because of her degree and her listing of her G.P.As. I predicted she’d have an arrogance about her and see me as less than. I was indeed very wrong. This will be relevant in tomorrow’s post as well, how intuition can lead us far astray.

This particular therapist and I connected immediately. I have only connected in such a way with two other people in my life, one girl when I was in first grade and a guy when I was 14 in high school.

She is attentive and didn’t seem to mind that I hadn’t mentioned on our phone consultation that I hear voices and have experienced psychosis. She did believe that voices went away with medication (which isn’t the case for most of us, and I filled her in on my experience) and that schizoaffective can only be diagnosed under the condition that psychosis appears alongside depression (I didn’t correct that because I felt awkward doing so; it’s in the DSM-5, she can check it out if she wants. I have a DSM-5 PDF copy if she needs it) but overall she validates my feelings but also challenges me when something doesn’t seem quite right.

She will help me see alternatives and consider alternatives. She is full of humor, and gets my humor, and I’ve never laughed as much with a psychologist as I have this woman. I don’t feel judged usually, and have felt free talking about my voices with her. I have not talked in depth with anyone else about my voices, and I certainly haven’t told anyone else that I hear both internal and external.

Why did she work out? Because I didn’t follow my intuition, I followed a set of criteria I set for myself that weeded out those who were specializing in what I needed support with versus what I didn’t. And her listing her G.P.A has nothing to do with that.

And so what it comes down to is:

  1. Test the waters. See what kind of people you like. Don’t get disappointed if some don’t work out. You don’t make friends with every person you meet, do you?
  2. Don’t choose solely on degree level: you’re disgracing science and ignoring data.
  3. Take your time. You might not pick the right person on the first try, but you want to get as close as you can so you don’t have to go through 20 different people. That can happy very easily.
  4. Do your research. See what others say, but also recognize people can be picky about things you might not care about.
  5. Come up with your own criteria for the qualities that would be helpful for you. Make your stance clear at your first appointment.
  6. Get ready to work and be open to opinions that don’t match yours. Don’t assume CBT will work just because it’s a proven technique. Put some effort into it. Cry. Feel things. Process things. Think about things. Get frustrated and angry and annoyed. That’s literally the whole point.
  7. Don’t rely on your intuition solely.

And most importantly? Remember you have a say in your treatment. Make the therapy and partnership and it could become one of the better relationships you’ll establish in your life.

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