06/09/2015 09:02 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Best Counselor

Who is the best counselor in Los Angeles?

Counseling is an interesting métier and there is an extremely wide range of counselors here in Los Angeles.

When looking for a counselor or psychotherapist you should know the differences between psychiatrists, psychologists, PsyDs, LCSWs, LMFTs, LPCCs, and Life Coaches.

Psychiatrists are the only counselors who can prescribe medication. Pharmaceuticals such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication only fall within the scope of of practice of medical doctors. None of the other therapists can counsel you on pharmaceuticals.

Then there are different types of psychologists: there are research psychologists - PhDs - who primarily conduct research at universities and there are clinical psychologists PsyDs (and some PhDs also) who did graduate level work for 3-5 years and wrote doctoral dissertations on their particular areas of interest.

On the Master of Arts degree (MA) level there are Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselors, (LPCCs) and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs).

LMFTs can only work with patients - individuals, couples, families - regarding relationships. If an individual goes into an LMFT's office and says, "I'd like to stop smoking," the therapist must ask, "Is it effecting your relationships?" and if the patient says, "Not at all," then the LMFT must say, "I'm sorry, but I can't help you."

LCSWs are similar to LMFTs working with individuals, families, or groups on relationship issues but most often in social settings such as schools and clinics. However, some LCSWs also work in private practices.

LPCC is a recent re-addition to field of counseling in California and we cannot treat couples or families without fulfilling additional requirements and are distinct from LMFTs because we can work with individuals regarding Career Counseling. So if you wish to speak to someone regarding Career Counseling then you should talk to an LPCC.

Differences in the scopes of practice of LMFTs, LPCCs, LCSWs as well as LEPs (Licensed Educational Psychologists) can be found on the Board of Behavioral Sciences website.

So to answer the question "Who is the Best Counselor in Los Angeles?" a good answer would be, "It depends."

If you are 100% certain that you can only be helped by medication then you should see a psychiatrist.

On the other hand, if you think that you would benefit from talk therapy then you have to choose between PhDs, PsyDs, LMFTs, LCSWs, and LPCCs. In general, PhDs and PsyDs will be slightly more expensive because they have more schooling and may have attained a greater level of expertise in their particular areas of interest than one would in a 1-2 year MA program.

On the MA level you will have to choose between LPCCs, LCSWs and LMFTs and then, of course, there is a bevy of unlicensed spiritual advisors, somatic therapists, life coaches (some may have MA degrees or various types of "certifications" but are not tested or regulated by the state. And just for your own edification you should know that the licensure processes for licensed professionals in California - the 3,000 hours of supervised internship and the sundry tests - is quite rigorous. The Board of Behavioral Sciences is a division of the Department of Consumer Affairs and is designed to "Protect and serve Californians by setting, communicating, and enforcing standards for safe and competent mental health practice," according to their website. Thus, if you want to be assured of this modicum of quality then I recommend working with a licensed professional.

However, there is no "one size fits all" when looking for the best counselor to suit your needs.

For some patients it's about having a confidential, authentic, honest, empowering, emotionally supportive relationship; for some it's about having a directive moral responsibility to answer to - someone who isn't going to hesitate to say, "Seems like your addiction is adversely effecting your life - doesn't it?" For others it's about exploring new possibilities, reframing old narratives, and getting fresh perspectives on patterns and repeated situations; for some it's about having specific problem-solving strategies such as those of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy); for some it's about being inspired to make healthier choices; and for others it's about just feeling heard - knowing that it's alright to think or feel whatever they are experiencing.

There are thousands of licensed professionals and unlicensed individuals available to help you in Los Angeles. The best counselor for you is one who is going to meet you where you are at and provide the services, tools, advice, direction and emotional support that is going to help you overcome whatever is holding you back from leading a life full of positive, loving relationships and thriving in whatever fields you are passionate about. That's the person who is going to be the best counselor in Los Angeles for you.