MJ: With everyone having a different religious, social, ethnic background and with so many counseling resource options, could you provide a generic checklist for finding the right type of therapist for anyone?
Percell: There are many kinds of counselors, and it is paramount that you find the right one who is right type who has the right specialty for you and your situation. Let’s look at this statement again. Firstly, it is imperative to find the right type (advisor, coach, counselor, therapist, psychiatrist). Though there might certainly be some cross-over, these are all hugely different fields of expertise.
Our society, in my opinion, places far too much credibility on education. I know that sounds bizarre, but I’ll explain. Every counselor worth something has a "degree" in psychology. Education of the subject matter is fundamentally imperative. In a sense, that is redundant. Yet, there are Associates degrees (two-year programs), Bachelor’s degrees (four-year programs), Master’s degrees (five- or six-year studies), and Doctorates / PhD's (usually, seven + years of study). Here is where I fall into disfavor with many. I do not believe that this alone is a fair assessment of a good counselor.
To me, a degree makes one well informed, but does not have a great bearing on whether that person is a good counselor or the best one for you. I would rather have a counselor with a Bachelor’s degree who has been through a sexual assault than one with a PhD who has been happily married to their collegiate sweetheart for the past 30 years. Life experiences, interactions, character, and personality ‘combined’ with textual knowledge seems to be a better formula for seeking a counselor.
Similarly, as schools give degrees, professional governing bodies control licenses within their respective states. Licensed therapists will have LMFT, LPC, LCSW, etc. following their names to indicate that they are licensed. Again, I look at these as recognitions rather than recommendations or qualifications. Please understand, that I am not saying that you should view them as I do. Life Coaches, for example, are not licensed therapists, yet, life coaches can be quite helpful and otherwise beneficial to persons in need of transitioning life skills. Sadly, our society places too much importance on position and stature, and downplays everything outside of the status-quo. Such as it is with life coaches. There are internet programs which grant persons life coaching certificates after a three-week, at-home training program. This simply should not be.
Psychiatrists, which was my mother's field, are medical doctors. They are not counselors.