Understanding What Your Therapist Does

Man talking with therapist in therapy
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Your therapist, sometimes known as a psychotherapist or counselor, is an important part of your treatment team to overcome your phobia or phobias.


If you suffer from a phobia, you may see several mental health professionals. Here is a brief look at exactly what to expect from your therapist or counselor.

A Therapist's Education and Training

The level of education your therapist has largely depends on the requirements of your mental health facility and state laws. A licensed counselor or therapist usually holds at least a master’s degree and has undergone a supervised internship and a state licensure exam. However, most states allow bachelors level counselors to practice under the supervision of a psychologist or licensed therapist. Some counselors have training in fields such as addictions or techniques such as art therapy. Psychotherapists come from diverse disciplines, including psychiatric nurses, social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

Approaches to Treatment

No single approach defines a therapist or counselor. Therapists may prefer a single school of thought, such as behaviorism or cognitivism, or may favor a more eclectic approach. Many general counselors modify their approach to fit the individual client. Therefore, your treatment plan may be far different than a friend’s, even if you see the same therapist.

Therapist Specializations

Many therapists specialize in a particular mode of therapy. Art therapy, drama therapy, and hypnotherapy are popular options. These therapists typically work in tandem with more generalized practitioners rather than carrying caseloads of their own, although certain disorders — including some phobias — may be treated solely by a specialized therapist. Specialized fields of counseling include addictions, community mental health, and marriage and family. Some specializations require additional training and certifications. Others can be practiced by anyone meeting the general requirements for counselors in their state.

How to Find a Therapist

Finding a therapist can be challenging. In order for the partnership to be a success, there must be rapport and trust. You will need to choose a therapist that shares your beliefs about the nature of phobias and their treatment. Referrals are often the best source, but keep in mind that what is right for your friend may not be right for you.

What to Expect

If your child needs therapy, it is normal for you to have doubts and fears, particularly if you have never visited a therapist yourself. You may wonder what to expect. A trip to the therapist is very much like a trip to the doctor. You may check-in with a receptionist or just sit in the therapist's waiting area for your appointment. The therapist will ask numerous questions to try to pinpoint the problem. At some point, he or she will want to see the child alone. At the end of the session, you will be invited in for a wrap-up of the session and suggestions for future treatment.

Divorcing Your Therapist

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, the therapist-client relationship simply does not work out. Simple compatibility issues are among the most common reasons for breaking off the relationship. Before you leave, try to work through your issues with the therapist. Sometimes issues such as transference can make you feel like leaving when, in fact, staying is the best choice. Nonetheless, ​divorcing your therapist need not be a painful or difficult process.

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  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. How to become a substance abuse, behavioral disorder, or mental health counselor. Updated April 2020.

  2. American Psychological Association. What is the difference between psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers?. Updated July 2017.