by Nick Baez
A few weeks ago, Nancy Sepulveda courageously wrote about her struggle with depression and anxiety, and her deeper battle to finally take the steps necessary to seek out psychotherapy. She correctly noted that many Latinos have ambivalence towards seeking out such services, and there is a plethora of research that has identified numerous mitigating factors that decrease the likelihood of Latinos winding up in the therapy room.
For brevity’s sake, I will not spend time deconstructing these studies. But from my experiences over the past seven years as both a mental health therapist and teacher of psychology, I have consistently seen a common theme: a great majority of the folks I speak to about psychotherapy have no idea what makes a good therapist. Most don’t even know what qualifications are needed, and they are usually surprised at the answer.
Every year, I pose this question to psychology undergrads at my university: “Who here knows what qualifications and/or degrees you need to call yourself a therapist?” Most answers range from a Bachelor’s degree to a Doctorate, and from completion of an internship to full licensure from the state board. However, the answer is a simple, “nothing.” That’s right, any one of you right now (assuming you are of adult age) can technically rent out an office space and put the title of “Therapist” next to your last name.
Now, to be clear, you do need a Doctorate and state licensure to call yourself a Clinical Psychologist. You can also get licensed by the state without a Doctorate if you have the proper post-graduate clinical training. These individuals typically are Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC), Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), or Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT), and they usually possess at least a Master’s degree in the relevant field. In any event, an individual’s training and presence (or lack thereof) of a license to practice psychotherapy will speak volumes about his/her level of preparedness and expertise.
Even so, choosing an appropriate therapist is a very personal decision. For one, there is no single “correct” way to do therapy, and many modes of therapy exist that may work well for one and terribly for another. Second, you must keep in mind that the therapeutic process belongs to you. Stated more clearly, you are the owner of the therapeutic process, and hence, it is not the therapist’s job to dictate your life decisions (i.e., therapy is NOT what you see on Dr. Phil).
Rather, a good therapist will simply be a guide that helps you navigate the long, windy, and sometimes painful road towards healing. And finally, experience does count, and unfortunately, there are a lot of “fake” therapists out there who, upon closer examination, have no formal psychotherapeutic training. Therefore, it is well within your right to ask lots of questions regarding the individual’s level of expertise, years of training, and possession of a license. While this article is meant as just a general overview, my hope is that, with this information, some of your own ambivalence towards seeking psychotherapeutic services will be assuaged.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.