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  • Dr. Nicole Murray

Finding a Good Therapist


Nowadays, we are seeing an increase in the prevalence of mental health issues, as well as the need to see a therapist.

This is likely because of the increasingly stressful lifestyle we deal with today and the fact that society is becoming more accepting of mental health treatment.

However, the task seeking the help of a therapist can be challenging, especially in the beginning. What makes this journey even more complicated is the different titles these therapists hold.

For instance, you may find the following titles cited on the therapist’s professional card:

  • Psychiatrist

  • Psychologist

  • Social worker

  • Counselor

  • Life coach

In this article, we will help you decipher the type of training each therapist goes through and what you should be looking for in a qualified therapist.

What is the difference between different therapists


A psychiatrist is a certified medical doctor (M.D.) that went through medical school and specialized in the field of psychiatry.

These doctors study 4 years in medical school plus a 3-year residency program to become a certified psychiatrist.

Typically, psychiatrists can diagnose and treat mental health issues, such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia, using pharmacological drugs.


To become a psychologist in the US, you need to get a doctorate degree, which usually takes between four to seven years of graduate school.

  • Ph.D., Doctor of Philosophy

  • Psy.D., Doctor of Psychology

Psychologists are trained in multiple theoretical modalities and have extensive training in providing evidence-based practices to treating people through various types of therapy.

Psychologists are qualified to provide assessments and diagnoses which are important for mental health treatment.

There are several subspecialties that psychologists could choose, including:

  • Clinical psychology

  • Child psychology

  • Neuropsychology psychology

  • Rehabilitation psychology

  • School psychology

  • Forensic psychology

Note that this list is by no means comprehensive.

Social worker

To become a social worker in the US, you need a bachelor’s degree. However, some social workers continue their studies and get a master’s degree or Ph.D.

This career revolves around helping people in a wide range of situations with a special focus on vulnerable individuals who need guidance.

  • LICSW, Licensed Independent Social Workers

  • LCSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker


There is a wide mix up between being a counselor and a psychologist.

To become a counselor, you need a master’s degree, which lasts between two to three years. A counselor can performs similar services as a psychologist, but they are trained in less time and are usually unable to provide psycholgical assessment.

  • LPC, Licensed Professional Counselor

  • LMFT, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Life coach

Being a life coach is less formal than the other specialties listed above since it requires fewer qualifications and education. Anyone can call themselves a life coach, as there is no formal graduate level training.

The International Coach Federation provides certificates in coaching, however, there are several certifying bodies for life coaches making this profession the least regulated of all mental health professions. 

The main job of a life coach is to help his/her clients solve their issues and reach their personal and professional goals.


As you can see, each profession has different educational requirements but often overlap in service delivery, which can make choosing the right one confusing! Now that you’re familiar with the different specialties, hopefully you can see which therapist fits your needs the most.


Dr. Nicole Murray

Dr. Murray assists her clients in resuming their lives that have been disrupted by changes in health status. She received her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. She completed her internship and two-year fellowship at Mount Sinai-Icahn School of Medicine specializing in rehabilitation and neuropsychology. Her office is located near Grand Central.


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