Different Types of Therapists: Finding the Right Fit for Your Mental Health

April 5, 2024

Seeking mental health help can be daunting, but it starts with choosing a professional who aligns with your needs. Are you contemplating therapy but bewildered by the types of therapists out there? This article breaks down their roles, from psychologists to licensed counselors, the different types of therapy techniques, as well as how the therapists at Resilience Lab can help.

Key Takeaways

  • There are various types of mental health professionals who undergo different tracks of schooling and may become specialized in different areas. These professionals include clinical social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Many of these professionals may offer talk therapy, but only board-certified psychiatrists can prescribe medication.
  • Therapeutic modalities such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and various types of therapies such as individual versus couples therapy, can help address different needs. It’s important to understand your needs and preferences for therapy, in order to choose the approach that aligns with your mental health goals.
  • Finding the right therapist involves assessing your needs, doing thorough research, and trusting your intuition. Some organizations such as Resilience Lab, offer a Care Team who can assist you with therapist recommendations.

Understanding the Various Types of Therapists

As you delve into the world of mental health care, you’ll come across a range of professionals, each possessing unique roles and skills. Educating yourself on the differences can help you find a  compassionate guide who can navigate the complexities of your psyche and provide the support you need. From the medical approach of psychiatrists to the nurturing guidance of mental health counselors, the spectrum of therapists is as varied as the individuals they serve.

With a clear understanding of what each professional brings to the table, you can make a decision that best serves your mental health objectives. Whether you’re looking for talk therapy to unpack your thoughts, seeking a family therapist to mend relational ties, or contemplating medication management for a persistent condition, there’s a therapist whose career is dedicated to supporting your journey.

Clinical Social Workers

Clinical social workers bring a unique perspective to therapy, blending clinical expertise with an innate understanding of social environments. Clinical social workers can provide counseling beyond individual therapy, offering group therapy, family therapy, couples therapy, and a network of support services. Their mission is to empower individuals to navigate personal and practical problems, facilitating change not only within the individual but also within the community context.

Whether it’s within the confines of a hospital room providing support to families facing medical issues, or in a private practice setting, clinical social workers are adept at modifying behaviors and attitudes. They are the bridge between the internal struggles of their clients and the external resources that can provide relief, underscoring the interconnectedness of personal well-being and societal support.

Mental Health Counselors

Mental Health Counselors (MHCs) focused specifically on mental health counseling during their academic studies. They can craft personalized therapies for those wrestling with mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders. A mental health counselor holds a Master’s degree and has obtained hundreds of hours of clinical experience by the time they graduate. They are well-prepared to diagnose and provide therapy for a variety of conditions. As similar to other professions, MHCs will pursue continuing education, ensuring a current, modern approach to therapeutic practice.

From the school therapist helping a child navigate the intricacies of growing up to the therapist assisting couples through turbulent times, MHCs are versatile in their practice. They are dedicated to helping individuals achieve mental health and balance in their lives.


Psychologists delve into the vast landscape of the human mind, exploring cognitive processes, emotional responses, and social behaviors. With doctoral degrees within the psychology field, they are well-versed in various forms of talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, humanistic therapy, and existential therapy. They focus on psychotherapy and treatment plans that foster self-awareness and personal growth.

A distinctive feature that sets psychologists apart is their extensive knowledge and expertise in psychological testing. This aspect of their profession is unique and crucial, akin to how prescribing medication is a key capability of psychiatrists. Furthermore, psychologists are heavily involved in clinical research, dedicating efforts to examine and expand our collective understanding of mental health and functioning. This research not only contributes to the field at large but also informs their practice, ensuring that the therapeutic interventions they provide are grounded in the latest scientific evidence.

These mental health professionals serve a broad range of age groups, from children grappling with school-related stress to adults facing life’s myriad challenges. In their practice, psychologists may specialize in areas like eating disorders or family counseling, offering a safe space for individuals, couples, as well as groups to work through their mental health issues and find a path to healing.


Psychiatrists are ready to lend their medical expertise when mental health issues intersect with our body’s biological intricacies. These medical doctors have attended medical school and are equipped to address a wide spectrum of mental health disorders, from depression to bipolar disorder. They can prescribe medication and offer therapy sessions, often integrating clinical services with a deep understanding of psychological problems.

Psychiatrists offer more than just medication; they approach mental health from a holistic perspective, considering the interplay between mental conditions and physical health. In their private practices, these licensed mental health professionals work collaboratively with other therapists, such as clinical social workers and licensed professional counselors, to offer comprehensive care tailored to the individual’s unique needs.

Therapy Approaches, Specializations, And Techniques

As unique as the therapists who provide them, therapy approaches and specializations offer a tapestry of options to those seeking mental health support. Certain life events or mental health conditions may benefit from specialized expertise. Whether it’s the structured environment of cognitive behavioral therapy or the free-flowing conversation of humanistic therapy, each approach has its own merits and may resonate differently with each therapy seeker. Some common therapy approaches include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Humanistic Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • Play Therapy

Some types of therapy sessions include: 

  • Individual Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Couples Therapy
  • Group Therapy

Exploring these different approaches and types can help you find the therapy that best suits your needs and preferences. Connect with a therapist at Resilience Lab who can guide you through a personalized approach based on your unique circumstance.

Knowing about different types of therapists and their areas of expertise serves as a roadmap through the expansive terrain of mental health care. It allows you to identify which paths may lead to the destination you seek—be it improved self-esteem issues, better self-differentiation, or healing from trauma—and which therapist can best guide you along that journey.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

For many grappling with mental health issues, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) offers a glimmer of hope. It’s based on the concept that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected, and that by reshaping our thoughts, we can transform our lives. CBT is a structured, time-limited approach that equips individuals with the tools to challenge distorted thinking and develop coping strategies for a range of issues, including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

One of the strengths of CBT is its flexibility and the strong evidence backing its effectiveness, with treatment plans tailored to each person and therapy sessions that focus on actionable change. It’s a partnership between therapist and client, where together they chart a course towards healthier thought patterns and behaviors.

Family and Couples Therapy

Family and couples therapy act as a guiding light, leading the way through the fog of relationship issues towards improved communication and stronger bonds. This therapeutic approach is not just about resolving conflicts; it’s about forging deeper connections and understanding within the nuclear family unit and between partners. Marriage and family therapists are skilled navigators in the complex dynamics of relationships, offering strategies to manage life events and transitions that can strain familial ties.

Through family counseling and couples therapy, therapists help clients articulate their needs, listen actively, and empathize with one another. This collaborative effort can lead to a profound rekindling of relationships and a newfound appreciation for the roles each person plays within the family ecosystem.

Choosing the Right Therapist for You

The journey to find the right therapist is deeply personal and critical to your healing process. It involves connecting with a professional who can fully understand your mental health needs and provide a space where you feel seen, welcomed, and comfortable. The decision-making process should be undertaken with diligence and thoughtfulness, akin to any major life choice, recognizing the profound influence this relationship will have on your mental health and overall well-being.

The key to choosing from a plethora of options, ranging from mental health counselors to psychiatrists, is finding a professional whose empathy, expertise, and approach align with your unique therapy objectives.  This search demands both introspection and investigation, emphasizing that the ultimate choice should balance professional credentials with how comfortable and supported you feel in their presence.

It’s important to remember that finding the perfect therapist on your first try isn’t always possible or necessary. Therapy is a dynamic process, and your needs may evolve over time. It’s entirely normal and acceptable to transition to another therapist if you discover new preferences or if your requirements change. This part of your therapeutic journey isn’t about making a flawless choice initially but about understanding that flexibility in your therapeutic relationships can be vital to your growth and well-being. This openness to change reinforces the idea that your path to mental health is adaptable, allowing for shifts that cater to your evolving needs.

Get started with therapy today.

Our team can help you find the right therapist.

Assessing Your Needs

Before you embark on the therapist search, take a moment to assess your needs. What are the mental health issues you’re grappling with? Are you dealing with stress, trauma, or perhaps a diagnosed mental health condition? Reflecting on your past therapy sessions, if any, can provide valuable insights into what worked and what didn’t. This self-awareness will serve as a compass, guiding you towards a therapist who can tailor a treatment plan that caters to your unique mental landscape.

Depending on your past experiences and future goals, it may be especially important to work with a culturally competent and humble therapist. These therapists consider sociocultural factors as a critical part of the context for effective treatment, and work to build their awareness of multicultural issues. They seek to understand the impact that a client’s identities may have on their wellbeing. They work to build self-awareness, and to avoid succumbing to stereotyping. They are able to address challenging topics such as racism or homophobia rather than dodging these issues (Source). Therapists with cultural humility embrace a stance of lifelong learning, and will admit when they are unfamiliar with a topic. If a therapist is able to share with you how they would  consider your identities when working together with you on your goals, this is also a good sign.

Reflecting on what you hope to achieve through therapy is an important step throughout your therapeutic journey. Whether your aim is to develop strategies to manage anxiety, enhance communication within your relationships, or embark on a path of self-discovery, having a clear initial understanding of your goals can greatly influence the effectiveness of your therapy experience. This process of introspection invites you to consider what aspects of your life or mental health you're keen to focus on, setting the stage for a therapy experience that is not only focused but deeply aligned with your personal aspirations. By giving thought to your treatment goals and desired outcomes, you lay the groundwork for a therapeutic journey that will be supported and guided by your therapist.

Researching Therapists and Approaches

A successful therapeutic partnership is rooted in openness, trust, empathy, and collaboration. Start by seeking referrals from your network or primary care physician, who can point you towards therapists adept at addressing your specific issues. Remember, while recommendations are valuable, it’s essential to ensure that the therapist is a good personal fit for you. Online directories and therapist profiles can provide a wealth of information, allowing you to filter potential therapists by location, specialty, and insurance compatibility. Some practices, such as Resilience Lab, also have a team of care coordinators, who can help you navigate the process of finding and scheduling a therapist.

Don’t hesitate to delve into the details. Look for therapists with experience treating conditions similar to yours, and consider their credentials and focus areas. An initial consultation or a brief phone interview can help gauge your comfort level with the therapist and determine whether the therapeutic relationship has the potential to flourish. Even if a consultation isn’t available, your first few therapy sessions still represent a moment to align on your needs with your new therapist – use that time instead to evaluate whether there’s a match.

Trusting Your Instincts

Trusting your instincts plays a significant role in selecting a therapist, though it's important to recognize that therapy is not always a comfortable experience. The foundation of successful therapy lies in the therapeutic relationship, and it's essential to feel supported and understood by your therapist. However, comfort should not be the sole marker of a good fit. During initial consultations, pay attention to your gut feelings, as they can offer valuable insights into the potential for a productive therapeutic relationship. It’s about finding a balance between feeling challenged to grow and feeling safe enough to explore difficult topics. Trusting your instincts involves discerning whether a therapist can provide the right environment for your journey, even when the process takes you out of your comfort zone.

In choosing a therapist, distinguishing genuine intuition from anxiety or biases that might lead to an unsuitable choice is crucial. A sense of ease, attentiveness, and empathy from a therapist are strong indicators that you're on a path to establishing a productive and supportive therapeutic relationship. It's important to weave in an understanding that therapy can sometimes be uncomfortable due to the nature of personal growth and confronting challenging issues.

However, if you encounter a therapist who seems inattentive, lacks empathy, or is rigid in their approach, it may be an indication to continue your search. These characteristics can undermine the foundations of effective therapeutic care. The aim is to find a therapist with whom you can forge a relationship characterized by trust, openness, and collaboration, where your instincts affirm a sense of mutual respect and understanding. This discernment is key, as it moves beyond mere comfort and focuses on the qualities essential for a constructive therapeutic experience.

Starting Your Therapy Journey with Resilience Lab

Starting your therapeutic journey is a brave act of self-care, and Resilience Lab stands by to assist you at every stage. With a robust network of licensed therapists and a team of Care Coordinators who can chat with you to understand your needs and make a therapist recommendation, Resilience Lab is dedicated to connecting you with a clinician who specializes in your unique needs and strives for measurable outcomes.

At Resilience Lab, therapy isn’t just a service. It’s a voyage of self-discovery and re-establishing connections with your true self, your loved ones, and the world. Utilizing evidence-based techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, the therapists at Resilience Lab are committed to guiding you through the process of personal growth and healing. Every individual’s story is honored and met with a customized therapy experience, reflecting a deep understanding that one size does not fit all in mental health care.

The goal is to create a therapeutic environment that feels safe, supportive, and attuned to your needs. Whether you’re seeking individual therapy, couples therapy, group therapy, or family counseling, Resilience Lab therapists provide therapy that is designed to meet you where you are and help you grow into where you want to be. By focusing on holistic therapy and evidence-based practices, they ensure that every session contributes meaningfully to your long-term mental health and well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most popular types of therapists?

Clinical social workers, mental health counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists can all provide therapy. These therapists may have any number of specialties, including focusing on health issues such as addiction, depression, or ADHD. Therapists may also focus on helping people with specific identities, such as women or those in the LGBTQIA+ community. Some therapists offer different types of sessions (individual, couples, families, etc.), or practice using different approaches or modalities (CBT, ACT, etc.). Finally, therapists may specialize in helping people through different work or relationship situations, such as burnout or infidelity. Therapists can provide a broad range of support across many issues of various severity levels. 

How do I pick a therapist that is best for me?

Choosing the right therapist involves considering your specific needs, preferences, and the issues you wish to address. Researching therapists' specialties, treatment approaches, and credentials can help. It's also important to consider the therapist's communication style and whether you feel comfortable and understood during sessions. Many people find success through trial and consultation, ensuring a therapeutic fit that fosters a positive, productive relationship.

Do therapists offer a free consultation?

Many therapists offer a free initial consultation. This session allows you to discuss your needs, ask questions about their approach, and determine if their style and personality align with what you’re looking for in your therapeutic journey. It's a valuable opportunity to see if the therapist is a good fit for you without committing to a full session. Even if a consultation isn’t available, you are never locked in – if you decide to start therapy right away, your first session will be an important moment for you and your therapist to learn more about each other and whether there’s a match.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis and needs immediate help, please call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Clinically Reviewed by Christine Carville, LCSW-R.

Christine Carville, LCSW-R, is the co-founder and Chief Clinical Officer of Resilience Lab. Christine developed the Resilience Methodology, a trans-theoretical training model for therapists to provide individualized, flexible, trauma-informed care. She has also been teaching at the Columbia School of Social Work since 2016 and continues to maintain her own private psychotherapy practice.

Get started with therapy today.

Our team can help you find the right therapist.