Who Is A Clinical Psychotherapist?

Who is a “clinical psychotherapist?”

You may be unfamiliar with the terminology or who he or she is. In fact, lots may have misconceptions about who he or she is.

Two basic words for definition: “psychotherapist” and “clinical.”

A “psychotherapist,” whether secular or religious, is one who helps people heal and resolve their emotional, mental, behavioral, relational, or spiritual problems that cause unhappiness, lack of freedom, or breakdowns in life.

The Oxford Dictionaries define “psychotherapy” practiced by psychotherapists as “the treatment of mental disorder by psychological rather than medical means.”

Yet psychotherapy is more than psychological or medical.

“Psycho” comes from the original Greek root word “psuche” translated “soul,” “life,” “mind,” or “heart.” “Therapy,” on the other hand, is “therapepuo” in Greek, referring to “heal,” “cure,” “service,” “worship.” Put the words together, “psychotherapist” means one who serves God by healing souls.

This original meaning can come as a shock to secular/humanistic professionals, non-religious practitioners, and even medical doctors who may feel inappropriate or inadequate in calling themselves “psychotherapists.”

The word “clinical” refers to a process of direct and objective observation, analysis, and treatment of a patient as opposed to mere theory or science. Clinicians, whether counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists, engage in two fundamental processes: assessment and diagnosis. Clinical assessment that is more psychological rather than medical can be broken down into four separate but complimenting processes: neuropsychoanalysis tests, personality tests, achievement/IQ/EQ tests, and clinical observation/interview. Clinical pastoral psychotherapists or counselors are a special breed of therapists who integrate both traditional psychological tools with faith-based/spiritual worldview and assessment.

There is no primary, independent, or separate legal profession of psychotherapy. Professional psychotherapists enter and practice the field from one of several related disciplines.

Professional and other various routes to psychotherapists include medicine/psychiatry, clinical or counseling psychology, clergy/pastoral counseling, psychiatric nursing, social work, educational counseling, religious chaplaincy, MFT or marriage/family therapy, mental health counseling, clinical pastoral education, school guidance counseling, sex therapy, child therapy, media broadcasting, publishing/writing, among others.

Each profession, of course, approaches people and their psychological issues with differing degrees of expertise and understanding – e.g. medicine through the physical body or brain/bio-chemistry; psychology through personality dynamics; social work through society; education through the learning process; clergy/pastoral counseling through integration of psychotherapy and spirituality.

Regardless of what field or group a psychotherapist falls into, one should be careful in choosing who to work with. Legal credentials or diplomas by themselves are not enough to make a competent or ethical therapist.

In psychotherapy, much, much more is involved. Things like empathy, personal honesty, love, kindness, self-awareness, respect, life recovery, or self-therapy cannot be fully certified or guaranteed by academic degrees and licenses.

Ultimately you, and only you then, have to be the one to decide who is a “right” psychotherapist for you. Don’t be afraid to listen to your own feelings or judgment to assess compatibility.

No matter who your psychotherapist is – whether psychiatric, psychological, pastoral, or others – therapy is never boring or unfruitful when you are healing, growing, and evolving as a human being.

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