Just What is Therapy, Anyway?

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Therapy is a method of treatment. It’s actually a rather generic term, and so you find all sorts of therapies out there in the world: massage therapy, physical therapy, psychotherapy, and even very esoteric therapies such as aromatherapy. Psychotherapy, which is my profession, is regulated, meaning that only licensed professionals can practice psychotherapy.

First and foremost, psychotherapy is a method of treating mental disorders, such as Major Depressive Disorder, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Only a psychotherapist can diagnose and treat a mental disorder. In practice, most people in therapy do not have a diagnosable mental disorder. For instance, most of us have ups and downs, and some people may choose to see a therapist for help for that, but that does not mean they have Bi-polar Disorder.

Secondly, psychotherapy is powerful method of self-exploration, which leads to personal growth. Many people find that they have an increase in confidence, a reduction in feelings of shame, and a greater freedom to live the life they want.

Most clients in my practice are after a combination of both. They want a reduction in pain and symptoms, regardless if they have a diagnosis or not, and they want greater peace of mind. Psychotherapy is a great tool to help people reach those goals.

David Leong
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

What is an MFT/LMFT/MFCC?

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

The Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist is the most common license for psychotherapists in California.

There is often some confusion about the acronyms MFT/LMFT/MFCC. The legal name of the license is Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). This often gets shortened to just Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). The Marriage, Family and Child Counselor (MFCC) was the original name of the license before it was changed to LMFT quite a few years ago.

In addition to graduate school, the LMFT license requires 3000 hours of supervised internship. Once the internship hours have been earned, it an applicant must then pass two exams in order to receive their license.

David Leong, M.A.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

So, just who can do therapy?

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Psychotherapy is a regulated profession. Only people who hold certain licenses can practice psychotherapy. Each license has a different focus. Some examples are:

  • Psychiatrists are medical doctors. They are the only people who can prescribe psychoactive medications such as anti-depressants. Most modern Psychiatrists focus on assessing, prescribing and managing those medications.
  • Psychologists have a doctoral degree in psychology. Their focus is often on research or clinical testing. All those TV crime dramas where the court is trying to determine if someone is legally insane? A Psychologist would do the tests to make that determination, for example.
  • Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) requires a Masters Degree and they have a primary emphasis on connecting people to social services. Often found in community health organizations and hospitals.
  • Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT) also require a Masters Degree. MFTs provide the vast majority of therapy in California. MFTs are required by law to complete classes in counseling and psychotherapy, where the other licenses above are not. The focus of MFTs is psychotherapy.

Each of the licenses listed can practice psychotherapy – provided that they have had the necessary training. MFTs graduate with that training. People holding other licenses often have to add psychotherapy training separately. Most psychotherapists are MFTs.

I chose the MFT license because psychotherapy is what I am passionate about – helping people change on a deep level – and the MFT license is tightly focused on that. It is where I feel I can make the biggest contribution to the world. I am also committed to continuing my training, and I enjoy learning about the newest breakthroughs in the field.

David Leong
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist



How to choose a therapist

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Choosing a therapist or a counselor is a very different task than picking most other helping or service professionals. There is the objective part – is your therapist qualified or not? And there is the subjective part – is this the right therapist for me?

First – the nuts and bolts. Therapy is a regulated profession. Only licensed professionals such as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT or sometimes LMFT) or a Psychiatrist are permitted by law to conduct Psychotherapy. To make sure that your therapist is properly licensed, you can look online. Any disciplinary actions will also be listed. My license as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist is MFC51160, and is regulated by the State of California. You can check my (or any MFT’s) status by going to bbs.ca.gov. You will see both my License as well as my Intern Registration (which was cancelled once I received my license.)

Second, there is the fit between you and your therapist. Therapy is a place where you need to feel safe enough to get deeply personal work done, and your therapist is the person who will be holding the tender, extremely private areas of your life. The fit between you and your therapist is very important. By all means, get referrals from your friends, but I also encourage you to try several therapists for one session each. What works wonderfully for your friend may not be the same exact thing that you need. Listen to your gut – who makes you feel safe? Who makes you feels comfortable?

To help you make the important decision about choosing your therapist, I offer a free consultation. You can come in, risk free, and see if the kind of therapy I offer is the right fit for you. Call 510-771-7760.

David Leong
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist