How do I choose a therapist?

Choosing a therapist can be difficult. We suggest you consider therapists committed to providing evidence based treatment: a dedication to using only methods shown by research to be the most effective. You should also learn about the different types of mental health licenses, and evaluate any potential therapist's education, training, and experience.

When seeking a DBT therapist, we suggest only considering those offering comprehensive DBT programs, with therapists who have been intensively trained in DBT.

 

What is “evidence based treatment”? 

At Front Range Treatment Center, we say we deliver "evidence based treatment." So, what exactly does that mean?

Evidenced based treatment is a concept that guides clinicians in making decisions about client care. It means the therapist will consider three factors when determining the best course of treatment:

  • Client preferences and values

  • Clinical expertise

  • The best, most up-to-date research evidence regarding the best treatments

All therapist use the first two factors. The third is what sets evidenced based treatment care apart: the therapist is committed to only using the best treatments with the most research support. Many therapists believe that professional ethics requires them to only use methods shown by research to be effective. That way, the client is getting the most value possible, with the highest chance of a positive outcome. Evidenced based treatments allow for flexibility and can be tailored to an individual’s specific needs, which can only be done after a clinical assessment from the provider.

Division 12 of the American Psychological Association maintains a list of empirically supported treatments, some of which include Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Exposure Therapies, all of which are offered at Front Range Treatment Center.

 

What are the different types of mental health licenses?

In the state of Colorado there are several types of mental health licenses, all of which have different training and education requirements.

Psychologists are held to the highest educational standard of all mental health licensees. They must first obtain a doctorate degree (a Ph.D. or Psy.D.). This takes at least four years of attending classes, seeing clients under supervision through various internships, and writing a thoroughly researched dissertation. They must then complete a one year internship. After school, they must then accumulate 1,500 hours of experience under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, and then take a licensing exam.

Psychiatrists are persons who went school and chose to complete training in psychiatry. They are licensed as medical doctors. Some psychiatrists perform therapy, whereas others primarily work with clients to prescribe and manage medications for mental health conditions.

Other mental health credentials in Colorado include:

  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW)


  • Licensed Marriage and Family therapists (LMFT)


  • Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC)


  • Certified Addiction Counselors (CAC)


The education requirements and the amount of training required for each license varies widely. This chart from the state licensing board outlines the requirements for each license.

In Colorado, there is also a category called “Registered Psychotherapist.” There are no educational or training requirements for the use of this term. Any person can pay the state a small fee and call themselves a “Registered Psychotherapist.”

 

What do the different types of educational degrees mean?

Most therapists attend college, and then go to graduate school where they learn how to be a therapist. There are many different types of degrees, though, and it can get very confusing.

Most therapists are Masters level therapists. After their name, you may see M.A (master of arts), M.S. (master of science), M.S.W. (master of social work), or M.F.T. (master of family therapy). Master’s programs usually last 2-3 years, and vary widely in quality and content. Most programs will require one or more internships, where the student performs therapy under supervision.

Many therapists are Doctoral level therapists, designed by a Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy), Psy.D. (doctor of psychology), or Ed.D. (doctor of education). The most common doctoral level therapists are those with a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in the field of clinical psychology. People with this degree are called psychologists. There are also Ph.D. level programs in social work, family therapy, and several other fields.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors, and possess an M.D. This means they went to medical school. Some psychiatrists focus on providing therapy, but most work primarily on medication management.

In some states, persons can become licensed to perform therapy without having any education or training. In Colorado, these persons are called “Registered Psychotherapists.”

 

How Do I Select a DBT therapist?

If you need a DBT therapist, there are two questions to ask: First, does the therapist offer comprehensive DBT? Second, are they adequately trained in DBT?

Comprehensive DBT?

Comprehensive DBT has five parts, though only three involve the patient. The five are:

  • Weekly DBT Skills Training Groups


  • Weekly Individual Psychotherapy


  • In-the-Moment Coaching (also known as phone coaching)


  • Case Management (which largely occurs behind the scenes)


  • DBT Consultation Teams (for the therapist)


A comprehensive DBT program must have all of these parts. Every part serves an important function. All the research that shows how effective DBT is only applies to comprehensive DBT.

In some states, DBT is a protected term. In those states, persons cannot claim to be doing DBT unless they obtain a license from the state proving they offer comprehensive DBT. For example, you can read about the requirements to perform DBT in the state of Minnesota here. 

However, in Colorado the term DBT is not protected. Many persons use “DBT” in a generic way to mean they have some understanding of DBT concepts and they attempt to incorporate them into their way of doing therapy.

DBT Training

Levels of training in DBT vary widely. Some persons may have only ready about DBT, taken a single course in school, or attended a short training.

The gold standard in DBT training is to become certified through the DBT-Linehan Board of Certification as a Certified DBT Clinician. The people who run this organization created DBT, and have been training persons to perform DBT the longest.

Certification signifies that a DBT therapist is competent “to deliver DBT effectively and… demonstrate[d] their ability to deliver DBT programmatically with fidelity to the model as it has been researched.”

In order to even be considered for certification, applicants must have completed their masters or doctorate degree, be a licensed practitioner in their respective field, have been on a DBT consultation team for at least one year, and have accrued at least 40 hours of training. They must also complete an exam, and submit recorded sessions to demonstrate their skill.