When considering a therapist to work with, asking them these five questions can provide you with a lot of important information to help you make your decision:
How long have you been Licensed?
Counselors and social workers can begin seeing people during their education under supervision. Once they graduate they often begin entry level jobs that provide very little direct opportunity to directly work with patients one on one. However, many new clinicians will list their experience level as including their school internships and those entry level jobs. By asking how long they have been licensed, you can know the amount of time they have been working, without direct supervision of their work, in predominantly counseling hours.
2. What types of continuing education do you pursue and is it all local?
All counselors and social workers are required to get continuing education to maintain their license. The counseling board requires 20 hours of formal education which means anything that provides a certificate of completion. This could include self study courses such as reading a book and filling out a quiz. Social Workers are required to get at least 20 of their 40 (every two years) hours in live attendance educational activities. (There are some credits available for writing and teaching). Both professions are required to get at least 3 hours of ethics training in every license period. When a professional gets all of their credits locally, they are limited to training that is brought to St. Louis. When professionals are willing to travel to continue their education, they are exposed to increased opportunities to expand their knowledge base, particularly in specialty areas.
3. What is your formal education level?
Psychotherapy training at the Masters level is broad, but not particularly deep. There are few requirements to “claim” a specialty. Also, both professions require only a Master’s degree for practice. Pursuit of a doctorate ensures your therapist has committed to getting significantly more training for the job.
4. What is the basis for your claim of specialization?
Master’s level training programs are divided into core areas that are compatible with the testing for licensure. This means that practitioners are exposed to a wide variety of areas in our initial training, but some of that may be very cursory, as little as one class time devoted to some issues. Specialization requires more focused, post graduate training and should be a combination of training and experience. Working with patients is invaluable, but there is also value in understanding the theoretical underpinnings of particular work. A specialized practitioner should be able to tell you about how they acquired both training and experience.
5. How do most of your clients find you?
I have been fortunate that nearly 100% of my patients come from the referral of either another patient or from another colleague. I do not advertise my services other than the existence of this website. I do give presentations through the community and nationally. I humbly appreciate the value of word of mouth referrals and allow my reputation to stand on the quality of experience people have with me.