"Therapist" is a catch-all name for a wide variety of mental health professionals who offer a range of credentials, licensing and abilities. Among them: Psychiatrist
A medical doctor specializing in the treatment of mental disorders. Unlike other mental health professionals, psychiatrists are able to prescribe drugs.
Education: Minimum is usually four years of college and four years of medical school. Most complete three years specialty training (or residency) in psychiatry, although technically any physician can practice psychiatry.
Credentials to ask for: Completion of residency in psychiatry and/or board eligibility or board certification in psychiatry. License to practice medicine in locality. Membership in local psychiatric society.
Insurance: Often covers part or all of inpatient and outpatient costs, depending on policy.
Fees: From sliding scale to $125 an hour; typical fee, about $70 an hour.
Frequency: Usually once a week. Psychoanalyst
A specially trained psychiatrist or psychologist who is required to undergo psychoanalysis before being allowed to conduct the treatment process on patients.
Education: Usually also trained as a psychiatrist; less frequently as a psychologist.
Credentials to ask for: Certified as an MD. Graduate of accredited psychoanalytic training institute.
Insurance: Often covers part, depending on policy.
Fees: From sliding scale to $85 an hour, typically about $75 an hour.
Frequency: Three to five times a week. Psychologist
PhD in psychology, either clinical, counseling or psychoanalysis.
Education: Four years of graduate school, plus often several years of additional training in a post-PhD clinic or private practice setting under supervision of a more experienced psychologist.
Credentials to ask for: Diploma with the American Board of Professional Psychology, earned by practicing for a minimum of five years in private practice, and then passing a special test. Other credentials include membership in American Psychological Association; state or local license (although requirements vary widely upon location) and certification in a psychology specialty, either clinical, counseling, psychoanalysis, or a new degree for psychotherapy called a PsyD.
Insurance: Often covers part or all of outpatient care, depending on policy.
Fees: Sliding scale to $125 an hour, typically about $75 an hour.
Frequency: Usually once a week. Social Worker
Mental health professionals who frequently work in hospitals and the community to evaluate, counsel and arrange for care of people with special medical or psychological needs. In recent years more have started private practices.
Education: Minimum bachelor's degree in social work. For private practice, a master's degree in social work is required and sometimes additional training such as special psychotherapeutic courses.
Credentials to ask for: ACSW (Academy of Certified of Social Workers), earned by passing a written exam, getting several work references and gaining two years of experience supervised by another mental health professional. State licence, or membership in professional organizations such as National Association of Social Workers.
Insurance: Reimbursement varies according to state and insurance plan.
Fees: $35 to $75 an hour, typically about $50 a week.
Frequency: Usually once a week. Marriage and Family Therapists
An emerging field of mental health specialists who focus on psychotherapy within the family.
Education: Ranges from bachelor's degree with some postgraduate training to doctorate (in psychology, social work or family therapy) to medical degree.
Credentials to ask for: Membership in professional organization such as the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy with minimum master's degree, certification in family therapy, license (although only 12 states require it), graduation from special program or continuing education course in family therapy.
Insurance: Varies widely depending on credentials of therapist and insurance plan.
Fees: $55 to $65 an hour.
Frequency: Usually once a week. Pastoral Counselors
Clergy who also provide private psychotherapy.
Education: Some pastoral counselors also hold graduate degrees in psychology, social work or family therapy.
Credentials to ask for: Certification from the American Association of Pastoral Counselors, plus local license, or other professional affiliation in such organizations as American Psychological Association, American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists or the National Association of Social Workers.
Insurance: Some policies may reimburse.
Fees: Sliding scale to $50 an hour.
Frequency: Usually once a week.