What is Psychotherapy and who can do it?

The terms “counseling” and “psychotherapy” are usually used to refer to a variety of methods of talk therapy which involve helping people understand and solve their life problems, cope with overwhelming emotions and repair unhealthy or unhappy relationships. Psychotherapists use strategies and interventions that are proven to help patients gain insight into their problems and develop cognitive strengths and ways of behaving. For example, a person with a history being passive in their personal relationships can learn through psychotherapy how to recognize their passive behavior when it occurs and learn alternative ways of communicating so that they become more assertive.

Each state has different licensing criteria for mental health professionals who can practice psychotherapy. In Florida, those professions are Licensed Clinical Psychologists, Licensed Mental Health Counselors, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and Psychiatrists.

Licensed mental health professionals in Florida are required to have either a Master’s Degree or PhD in clinical psychology, counseling psychology or be an MD with a specialty in psychiatry. Graduate study in psychology or counseling includes extensive study of mental disorders and instruction in individual, family, and group psychotherapy. Each discipline further requires a minimum of a two year internship practicing psychotherapy under a fully licensed therapist. Most mental health professional disciplines require passing a comprehensive licensure exam as well as ongoing continuing profession education.

The titles “counselor” and “life coach” have no professional regulation in Florida which mean that anyone can use those titles without any formal training and without meeting the criteria of state licensure. However, it is a commonly searched term for licensed mental health professionals, as well as, non-licensed persons using the same title. This distinction is important. It is strongly recommended that those seeking counseling be aware of the credentialing of their counselor and investigate their educational and licensure background.

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