Learn More About Psychotherapy

What is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy, often called “therapy” or “counseling,” means talking with a mental health professional about your problems. The therapist helps you to better manage your problems through strategies such as insight, understanding, and suggestions for behavior change.

There are many styles of psychotherapy, and each professional may have somewhat different training or preferences in how they work with their patients or clients. All of our therapists use tried and true techniques which have proven to be effective and helpful.

Studies show that the quality of the relationship between therapist and patient is usually more important than the technique the therapist may use. Therefore, a client who experiences little success or comfort with one therapist, may have better results with another, based on personality match as well as therapy style. If psychotherapy has not been helpful in the past, you may discover that with a different therapist, you will experience better results.

How long does psychotherapy take?

Therapy may be brief (lasting only a few sessions) or may last for months or even longer. Each person’s needs are different. Also, therapy which is more frequent (weekly) usually works more quickly and effectively than therapy which is every 2 to 3 weeks or less. However, once you are making steady progress, you and your therapist may agree that you are ready to cut down to less frequent sessions.

wooden figures symbolizing the need for psychological therapy
question mark symbolizing whether someone may need psychological therapy

What are the different types of mental health professionals who practice psychotherapy?

The types of licensed mental health professionals are listed below. All mental health professionals undergo continual training even after obtaining their licenses. They may spend many hours (and great expense) on post-graduate training programs to improve their skills and to learn new techniques, as well as to keep up with the latest research in their fields.

  • Psychiatrist – A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. Psychiatrists first attend 4 years of medical school (after college), and then go through four or more additional years of specialized training, much of it in a hospital setting. They must pass a complex examination, measuring both knowledge and skill, in order to be Board Certified in Psychiatry. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. They can also do psychotherapy (see above).
  • Nurse Practitioner – A nurse practitioner holds an advanced nursing degree which may be at a master’s or doctoral level. The nurse practitioner must take special courses, during or after the masters or doctoral training. Clinical nurse specialists must pass a national certification exam to be able to practice psychotherapy. There is an additional training and examination process in order to be licensed to prescribe medications.
  • Psychologist – A psychologist usually has a doctoral degree such as a Psy.D. or Ph.D. This is not a medical degree, but an advanced degree granted to professionals who complete many years (usually at least 5) of post-college training in the diagnosis and treatment of mental and emotional disorders. They must pass an examination in order to be licensed by the state in psychology. Psychologists are trained to do psychotherapy (see above) as well as psychological testing and evaluation. In most states, including Pennsylvania, they may not prescribe medication.
  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) – A marriage and family therapist usually holds a master’s degree, which requires at least 2 or 3 years of post-college training. They must also pass an examination in order to be licensed by the state. The MFT is trained to work with family systems, helping people to understand the ways in which family relationships can affect emotional difficulties. They can do psychotherapy with couples (married or not), families, and also with individuals. A “marriage counselor” is often a licensed marriage and family therapist.
  • Social Worker (LCSW) – A licensed social worker, or licensed clinical social worker, usually holds a master’s degree (requiring at least 2 or 3 years of post-college training) in social work. They must pass an examination in order to be licensed by the state. Social workers are trained to help with many kinds of problems, but many specialize in psychotherapy with individuals, couples and families. Social workers are trained to work with people and specifically how they relate to their social environment (family, communities, etc). Many specialize in psychotherapy with individuals, couples, families, and groups.
  • Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) – A licensed professional counselor has a master’s degree in counseling or a related field. In addition to a master’s degree, LPCs obtain supervised experience and pass a state licensing exam. LPCs treat people with mental, behavioral and emotional problems, and may use individual, family, or group psychotherapy techniques.