Understating your options is a key for a successful match with the right therapist:

What are the therapist’s credentials and training? Is the therapist licensed? Does he/she have experience with your problem(s)?
Therapist’s gender is another factor to consider

If I, as a therapist, find that I am not the best fit to meet your specific needs, I am always happy to offer referrals.

Therapist’s Credentials & Training

Professionals conducting psychotherapy:

  • Psychologist (PhD and PsyD) – a doctor trained in psychotherapy, assessment, and psychological testing.
  • Psychiatrist (MD) – a medical doctor trained primarily in prescribing psychotropic medications to help you with your moods and feelings.
  • Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) – a therapist with Master’s degree usually trained to work with children, adults, and families.
  • Social Worker (LSCW) – a person with a Master’s degree in Social Work who is usually trained to connect people with available resources in the community. Many Social Workers also provide therapy services.
  • Coach – coaching has its roots in sports, business, and personal growth venues. Coaches assume that the client is whole and help the person solve a specific problem. In a way, coaches train people how to overcome specific situations developed in their lives. Coaches are NOT licensed professionals, and there are NO standards on who can and cannot be a coach. Coaches are not allowed to provide psychotherapy services.

So what? PhD, MD, LMFT, LCSW? What’s with all of these abbreviations and politically correct definitions? I’m still hella confused! I just need help!

OK OK… Let’s slow down there. Let’s step away from this confusion and think about a different situation. If you have a bad chest pain or your leg hurts and it’s hard for you to walk, who would you want to see? A doctor or a nurse? Sometime you have to see a nurse first, but to me, if I’m concerned that something is wrong with my heart, I’m going to make sure that I see a doctor. Yes, some nurse practitioners are very good at what they do, but I still prefer to get a doctor’s opinion. So why should it be different when it comes to your emotional pain?

It is true that many Masters level therapists are very well trained in psychotherapy, but psychologists (PhDs and PsyDs) have unique abilities to utilize psychological testing to assist us in diagnostics. Psychologists also go through a very different training than MFTs and LCSWs. And as far as coaches, you car mechanic can discover that he wants to help people with certain aspects of their lives and open a coaching office tomorrow without any additional training.

Most people do not start with an MD (psychiatrist) because medications only cover up symptoms and do not change your life. Once you start seeing a therapist, you can discuss with your counselor whether medications would be helpful in your case. Any therapist would be able to help you connect with a Psychiatrist if you choose to explore taking medications.

To schedule an appointment or to have a free phone consultation with Dr. Gutkin please visit New Patients page.

Therapist’s Gender

Research shows that therapist’s gender does not have a bearing on the therapy outcomes. Several research studies demonstrated that whether there is a match in therapist-client genders (a female client working with a female psychotherapist or male client – male therapist) does not make the therapy more or less effective (Bryan et. al, 2004; Fujino, Okazaki & Young, 1994; LaSala, 1997). Yet, many people are looking for a therapist of the same gender as they are: males are looking for male therapists and females for female. This illuminates an opportunity for a cross-gender perspective.

For example, many parents of teenage girls try to find female psychologists because they feel that their daughters will connect more easily with female counselors. However, chances are that their daughters are already connected to a number of females in their lives whether those would be their female friends, mothers, relatives, or mentors. At the same time, many teenage girls don’t have very warm relationships and open communication with men in their lives and many teens have a hard time opening up to their fathers. To take this further, many teen girls come to therapy because they are struggling with their relationships and a male therapist can guide them in their exploration of a male psyche and male behavior. Remember, you are not trying to find a friend for your daughter. You want someone who is a skilled professional to answer her ultimate question: “Why are all guys such jerks?”

It is absolutely invaluable for any female to develop a healthy, honest, and trusting relationship with a male psychologist in the safe environment of a therapy office. However, there are situations in which it is counter-indicated for people to see a therapist of an opposite gender. This could be in a situation of a female client who is suffering from a Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome as a result of multiple severe traumatic events and absolutely cannot be in a room with any male. This could also be a male who needs modeling of appropriate male behavior. If I would feel that you need a different therapist, I will work with you to find you an appropriate match.

In the past, I have successfully worked with teen girls who have been struggling with their relationships. I have also worked with parents who have been having difficulties relating to their teens. I worked with boys abused and abandoned by their fathers and with teens that had problems relating and communicating with their mothers. I also worked with women with a history of abuse and with male clients trying to redefine their selves.

Bryan, L. A., Dersch, C., Shumway, S., & Arredondo, R. (2004). Therapy outcomes: Client perception and similarity with therapist view. American Journal of Family Therapy, 32(1), 11-26. doi:10.1080/01926180490255792

Fujino, D. C., Okazaki, S., & Young, K. (1994). Asian-American women in the mental health system: An examination of ethnic and gender match between therapist and client. Journal of Community Psychology, 22(2), 164–176.

LaSala, M. C. (1997). Client satisfaction: Consideration of correlates and response bias. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 78(1), 54–64.