Tanya Ruckstuhl Valenti, LICSW

Finding a Therapist Who Won't Make You Crazy(er)

By Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW

Enjoy your journey! Good therapy is like a lush, healing garden: you will find beauty, perspective, gratitude and insight for yourself and your life experiences where you once only saw weeds and rubble.


There are many initials (LICSW, LMFT, RC, etc) indicating education and licensure and most consumers have no idea what they mean. The important thing to look for is the letter “L” which means “licensed” without the word “associate” before it. Why? An “associate license” is someone who is not yet licensed. A licensed mental health professional (LICSW, LMFT, for example) is someone with a master’s degree or a doctorate in the field of mental health, two years full time post-graduation work as a therapist, supervision by a licensed therapist, who has passed a nationally accredited competency exam, and receives ongoing education to maintain their license.

Beware that in Washington State there are “Registered Counselors” which means nothing more than someone who sent a check to the department of health and may or may not have any actual mental health training. As of July of this year, registered counselors are being re-named and subdivided into various “Associate Licenses” except for the ones who are exempt from the new licensure laws because they have been practicing for five or more years as registered counselors. No doubt some of these registered counselors are great at what they are doing, but if I go to the butcher shop I want to know I’m buying a steak, and not maybe a steak, maybe meat-flavored tofu. back to "Finding a Therapist..."

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