When you are going through a divorce, it can help to have a trusted person to talk to about the jumbled mix of emotions and feelings you may be experiencing right now. For many, seeing a therapist is beneficial, especially when it comes to getting “over the hump” of divorce. If you have children, seeking therapy — for everyone in the family — is typically recommended as a way for you to begin learning the tools and skills necessary to move forward.
But what kind of counselor is best? Should you make an appointment with a PhD, PsyD, LCSW, LC, or MD… And what do these titles even mean? To make it a little easier for you to choose from the often overwhelming number of counselors and therapists available in your local area, here’s a run down of five different types of professionals who offer mental health services to individuals and families in need of emotional support.
Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT): Also known as a marriage counselor or family counselor, this type of therapist has a master’s degree in — just as the name implies — providing therapy to couples and families in crisis. Some MFTs prefer to see families together at appointments, but most provide individual counseling sessions for both adults and kids. Also, to clear up a misconception, it is not the goal of an MFT to reunite couples if the individuals involved don’t wish this. If it is your goal to reconcile, however, a marriage counselor may be able to help you.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW): If you receive counseling services via New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (formerly NJ DYFS), you may be assigned to a social worker, though other social workers can work in private practice. This type of counselor focuses on helping individuals and families with problem solving skills, and are typically skilled in connecting their clients with public and private resources that may provide further support.
Psychologist: Whether it’s a PhD or PsyD after their name, a psychologist is a mental health professional trained in offering a certain type of “talk therapy” — for example, behavioral therapy, in which clients learn to come up with their own solutions to problems through modifying their own behavior and making different choices. Psychologists may specialize in treating children, families, or adults. Often, when children meet with a psychologist to deal with their parents’ divorce, each parent — alone or as a couple — also meet privately with the psychologist, and then together with the child in family sessions.
Licensed Counselor (LC): This type of counselor may focus solely on divorce counseling, or may specialize in an issue individuals may face as a result of divorce, including addiction and substance abuse, or domestic violence.
Psychiatrist: These MDs (doctors) specialize in diagnosing and treating mental or psychiatric illnesses and are able to prescribe medication. Other mental health professionals may refer clients to see a psychiatrist as a way to explore whether taking a prescription medication for depression or anxiety could be helpful.
Does this clear things up? The best way to truly know if a particular type of therapist is a good match for your needs is to simply explain your situation (in general terms) over the phone. Often, the therapist or counselor will be able to point you in the direction of the helping professional who can offer the best support for your situation.