Choosing the Right Therapist: Part 2

The search for a therapist can be a daunting and cluttered experience, especially in Denver where there are thousands of providers in the therapeutic fields. Not only are there thousands of people out there available to help, but there are numerous divisions, qualifications, and classifications of those who work in the mental health field. Knowing the differences between these various types of providers can help you decide what type of provider you may want to seek for therapy or counseling.

The basic designations in the field of psychology and the helping professions are: psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor or psychotherapist, and social worker. While there are many more designations depending on context, these are the basic four.

Each of these designations delineates not only a person’s specifications and certifications, but also their education and area of expertise. It’s helpful to know how each of these classifications informs a provider’s background and scope of practice so that, as you are seeking therapeutic support, you can decide which type of provider might best meet your needs.

Here’s what each designation means and what you can expect from a person serving in one of these roles:

Psychiatrists – are medically trained PHd level providers that primarily work in the realm of medication management and diagnosis. Some psychiatrist are more ‘therapeutic’ or conversational in practice, and some even provide therapy/counseling, but for the most part, you see a psychiatrist when you need to receive medication and have that medication or medications monitored and supported through professional care.

Psychologists – are PHd level providers that primarily work in the realm of diagnosis and testing. Some psychologist are more ‘therapeutic’ or conversational in practice, and some even provide therapy/counseling, but for the most part you see a psychologist when you need to be tested and diagnosed.

Psychotherapists – are masters level (or higher) primary care mental health providers, most commonly known as counselors or therapists. For these providers, you will most commonly see the titles of Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), or Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Psychotherapists are trained specifically in the theory and practice of counseling and therapy. Working from an understanding of the nature of the human person, the factors that lead to human struggle, and how we grow, heal, develop, and learn new and more enjoyable ways of living, psychotherapists work with individuals, couples, and families over a course of months or years to help foster personal and relational health.

Social workers – are masters level (or higher) providers that provide more circumstantial-based services for those needing social and psychological help. Some social workers provide psychotherapy services (LCSWs mentioned above), but many work in the realm of case management, helping their clients gain access to the services they need.

Most likely if you are looking for a ‘good therapist’ you’re going to be looking for a person who is a counselor, otherwise known as a psychotherapist.

From here, there are hundreds of extra certifications that psychotherapists can add to their professional credentials – these are all those confusing letters you may see after a person’s name. While these extra certifications don’t automatically guarantee the skill or effectiveness of a therapist, they can be very helpful in your search for the right therapist. These certifications can provide important information about the therapists you are exploring; how they practice and what they may know about certain interventions and issues. Here are some common credentials you might see:

  • NCC – Nationally Certified Counselor (doesn’t require state licensure)
  • CCMHC – Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (doesn’t require state licensure)
  • EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (a trauma recovery therapy)
  • RPT – Registered Play Therapist
  • CAC – Certified Addiction Counselor
  • LAC – Licensed Addiction Counselor
  • CST – Certified Sex Therapist

If you are looking for a great therapist, we have them! And we don’t take that statement lightly. There are so many really great therapists out there. To suggest that we have the corner on the market on good counseling is ridiculous. But our clinicians are awesome; personable, knowledgeable, expert, and inviting. They truly love what they do and genuinely care for their clients. Reach out to us by calling 303-393-0085 or email us at We want to support you in getting the best help available!

~ Clinton J. Nunnally, LPC & Mikey Brackett, LPC