Therapy is a collaborative process, so finding the right match – someone with whom you have a sense of rapport – is critical. After you find someone, keep in mind that therapy is work and sometimes can be painful. However, it also can be rewarding and life changing. You can rest assured that all mental health professionals are ethically bound to keep what you say during therapy confidential. However, therapists also are bound by law to report information such as threats to blow up a building or to harm another person, for example.



Choosing the Right Mental Health Professional 

What are the Steps for Choosing a Mental Health Professional?

            See your primary                  care physician to                  rule out a medical cause of your problems. If your thyroid is "sluggish," for example, your symptoms-such as loss of appetite and fatigue-could be mistaken for depression. You may also ask a friend for a referral.

                  After you know               your problems               are not caused by a medical condition, find out what the mental health coverage is under your insurance policy or through Medicaid/ Medicare.

               You may call                      Department of                  Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for information and appointments at (703) 771-5155.

               Plan to                                interview one or                more therapists before you set up an initial appointment. Ask about training and background. Tell them the issues you would like help with.

               Get two or three                referrals before                making an appointment. Specify age, sex, race, or religious background if those characteristics are important to you.

              Make sure the                   therapist has                     experience helping people whose problems are similar to yours. You may want to ask the receptionist about the therapists expertise, education, and number of years in practice.

              Make sure the                   therapist has                     experience helping people whose problems are similar to yours. You may want to ask the receptionist about the therapists expertise, education, and number of years in practice.

               During your first visit                                     describe those feelings                                 and problems that led you                           to seek help. Find out:

  • What kind of therapy/treatment program he or she recommends

  • Whether it has proven effective for dealing with problems such as yours

  • What the benefits and side effects are

  • How much therapy the mental health professional recommends

  • Whether he or she is willing to coordinate your care with another practitioner if you are personally interested in exploring credible alternative therapies, such as acupuncture

                    Be sure the                            therapist                                does not take a "cookie cutter" approach to your treatment. What-works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Different psychotherapies and medications are tailored to meet specific needs.

                  Although the                     role of a                               therapist is not to be a friend, rapport is a critical element of successful therapy. After your initial visit, take some time to explore how you felt about the therapist. 

                     If the answers to                          these questions                          and others you come up with are "yes," schedule another appointment to begin the process of working together

to understand and overcome your problems. If the answers to most of these questions are "no," call another mental health professional from your referral list and schedule another appointment.














                Call to find out                     about availability,                 location, and fees. Ask the receptionist:

  • Does the mental health professional offer a sliding-scale fee based on income?

  • Does he or she accept your health insurance or Medicaid/Medicare?

Board Certified Diplomat (BCD) is certified by a national board and is a clinical social worker who has at least five years experience and who qualifies for certification through testing.


Certified Addiction Counselor (CAC) is a certified by the State of Virginia as a specialist in addictions counseling only.


Certified Group Psychotherapist (CGP) is recognized and certified by the American Group Psychotherapy.


Clinical Psychologist (PHD or PsyD) holds a doctorate degree n psychology, and must be licensed by the state and certified by the State Board of Examiners of Psychologists.Counselor includes psychiatric nurses, clergy, social workers, etc. who are trained in various counseling techniques.


Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) holds a Master’s or Doctorate of Social Work (MSW or DSW) with specialization in clinical practice and should be licensed by the state.


Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) holds a master’s or doctoral degree in marriage and family therapy or related clinical field with special training in family systems, theory, and therapy.


Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) holds a master’s or doctoral degree in counseling should have specialized training in a clinical setting and be licensed by the state.


Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing Specialist (RN, CS) is a nurse with a master’s or higher degree, skilled in the practice of psychiatric and mental health nursing, should have completed the certification profess, and should be licenses by the state.


Psychiatrist (MD) is a medical doctor trained in psychiatry who can prescribe medication. They must be licensed by the state where they practice.Psychoanalyst may or may not have a degree in medicine, and uses a special form of therapy based on one-to-one “talking out” of deep-seated problems.


Registered Art Therapist (ATR) is a recognized and certified by the American Art Therapy Association.





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Types of Mental Health Professionals