What Kind of Training Should I Look for in a
Psychotherapist or Psychoanalyst
When a person is considering entering psychotherapy, or thinking about going back into therapy, they often seek a consultation before making a decision. During such consultations, I am frequently asked, “What exactly is a psychotherapist?” and “What kind of training should I look for and how can I evaluate it?”
Most psychotherapists are licensed either as a: 1) Psychiatrist (MD), 2) Psychologist (PhD) or 3) Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). The training in each of these disciplines varies in its focus, but all are geared toward helping people to cope with emotional issues which cause distress and conflict internally, and in their dealings with others. These emotional issues are sometimes unconscious, and sometimes people are aware of them, but not aware of the extent of their effect upon relationships, success in work, self- esteem and overall ability to take pleasure in their lives.
Another aspect of training that is less well known and understood is Postgraduate Certification in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy from a recognized training institute. In New York State such institutes are certified by the State Board of Regents. This postgraduate course of study is optional and pursued by only some licensed psychotherapists in all of the above disciplines.
I think that postgraduate Certification in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy constitutes very important preparation for all psychotherapists. This intensive training teaches the therapist to listen and conceptualize in a particular way. An analytically trained therapist has the capacity to listen in depth and to recognize and delineate repetitive patterns that occur within an individual and between couples. Institute Training sensitizes the therapist to hear the emotional content of communication, along with creating a therapeutic understanding of how and when to respond so that the patient feels “heard”, but not intruded upon.
Certification from a recognized training institute usually requires the therapist to have a minimum of 400 hours of personal psychoanalysis at a frequency of three or more session per week. It also involves approximately 500 hours of classroom study focused on theoretical concepts and their application to the psychoanalytic and psychoanalytic psychotherapy process. Intensive ongoing individual supervision of the therapist’s treatment of one or more patients is also required for completion of certification. This combination of personal analysis, academic study and intensive supervision enables the therapist to work toward a thorough understanding of the patient’s personality patterns and a couple’s relationship dynamics. I believe it provides a solid foundation for the achievement of deep and lasting change.