Who Is A Therapist?

Self-Therapy For People Who ENJOY Learning About Themselves

Therapy is essentially a healthy relationship.

Teaching occurs.
Emotions are expressed.
Ideas are exchanged and examined.
But none of these is primary.

What is primary is the relationship between the client and the therapist.

The healthier this relationship can be, the better the outcome. And the therapist is half of this important relationship

What can you know about your therapist? How much does it matter?


Robots haven't replaced therapists yet, so we know the therapist is going to be a human being.

This tells you a lot.

It tells you that the therapist has experienced the same feelings you have. He or she might have felt more or less anger, fear, sadness, excitement and joy in their life than you have, but they have definitely felt them all.

They have also experienced success and failure.

And they know what it's like to be confident and to have self-doubt.


Therapists in the United States are trained either as psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in mental health. Psychologists have a Masters or Ph.D. in psychology. Social Workers have a Masters or Ph.D. in social work.

If you wonder about the formal training of any therapist, ask them. If you feel a need to verify what they tell you, check with your state's licensing authority.



Sometimes the formal training the therapist received is not particularly related to sitting in a little room helping people solve their problems through conversation.

Some psychiatrists attend schools that emphasize medication and don't believe in therapy.

Some psychologists attend schools that emphasize entirely different branches of psychology.

Some social workers attend schools that examine social problems and barely mention personal and relationship problems.

Many of us learn more after getting our degrees than we did while attaining them. And most states require this additional education.

You might find it interesting to learn about your therapist's advanced education.


Most of us don't start by offering fee-for-service psychotherapy.

We spend years in areas such as public health, correctional services, university guidance departments, etc.

You can find out where your therapist gathered their experience. You can even ask whether they think it influences their work with you in any way. (Guess you could just ask for a copy of their resume.)


Therapists are trained to avoid talking about their personal life for many good reasons including:
We are paid to concentrate on you. We must work well with a wide variety of people, regardless of our own background. We don't want to confuse things by adding personal prejudices and interests to the mix.

But if questions about your therapist's hobbies and interests, their current living situation, whether they have children, their childhood standard of living, or whether they've had any therapy of their own ever do matter to you, you can certainly ask. (If your therapist responds by asking "Why do you want to know?" you can be pretty sure that answering such questions isn't their style.)

Personally, I don't mind answering these questions honestly if very briefly. Although it is a therapist's responsibility to keep our personal issues out of our work, we can never be entirely sure that the answers to such questions are irrelevant.

[... FYI: Photography, travel, and the Internet; married; two sons; poor; and yes...] ONCE YOU KNOW, SO WHAT?

If you have major medical concerns, you should see a psychiatrist. Otherwise, all of the factors we've discussed here might not even matter.

Even if you learn all these things about your therapist you will probably find that what really matters is how you feel about them when you are with them, and how attentive, helpful, and able to communicate they are. That's how it usually works.

Your therapist is a human being who is trained to show you how to make the changes you want to make.

If you like them and they like and respect you, you are in the right place. You will do well together.

Enjoy Your Changes!

Everything here is designed to help you do just that!

next: What To Tell A Therapist

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, November 21). Who Is A Therapist?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 18 from

Last Updated: March 30, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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