As I am trying to gauge how good my counselor(a licensed Psychologist) is, a couple good things he did:
After weeks (months?) of almost a complete communication breakdown, my husband suggested we each draw up a list of things we don't like about each other and then work on them. I asked my counselor what he thought of it. He gave me a sheet that he said he generally gives to couples who come in for couples therapy. He calls it the I-statement list. Basically - a list of things each partner states that he/she is willing to work on in order to improve their marriage. He suggested using that list instead of listing things we don't like about each other - because that is finger-pointing and could (Yes, it would!) lead to more resentment. I REALLY liked the idea. Of course, I haven't brought it up to B (my bitter half), he doesn't think much of counseling & therapists, etc. But I will, when the time seems right.
I mentioned B's thoughts on couselors/therapy to my Counselor - let's say C. Basically, I wanted to tell him that B would probably never agree to couples counseling, and would/could therapy still help me/us with just me in counseling. C said it still would - although having at lease B's perspective would help. He suggested I ask B (when I felt the time was right) if he could perhaps just go in (NOT 'to be shrunk' as B would call it) to just provide his take on things. So that C could help me improve. I said that sounded perfect, specially since B thinks I don't communicate well enough. Not sure why this interaction was reassuring, but it was.
Sounds damn fine to me.
As for the "who to choose" thing......there are brilliant therapists who are social workers, psychologists, AND psychiatrists.
And some who haven't done any training at all...they are just like that!
The qualifications are a protection of sorts from random nutters, they mean someone understands (or ought to.....it's no absolute guarantee) professional ethics and boundaries, and will not work beyond their capacities.
In my country (Australia) psychologists tend to be mainly trained in cognitive behaviour therapy, and some will rigidly use this method and this only. It is a well researched methodology, though by no means as well supported as rigid adherents to it claim (people who drop out often do not get included in studies, for example) and is often very helpful.
Any decent therapeutic method has cognitive and behavioural components anyway!!! Hopw do we change? We receive new and meaningful feedback and understanding of our behaviour and way of viewing the world and ourselves.
Where it has often fallen down is in neglect of the crucial relational aspects of therapy (and neurological research is more and more supporting what any good therapist has always known, that change occurs in the context of a strong relationship with a therapist) and in any attention to, and understanding of, the contextual and systemic and social and political aspects of people's situation.
Psychiatrists, if and when they do therapy, will often only know about analytic concepts. Interestingly these, while having long been roundly ridiculed by many psychologists and social workers, are experiencing renewed interest as attachment and trauma research appears to be strongly supporting many of its basic and less out there concepts (many of which are strongly ties to the cultural conditions of its birth).
Social workers tend to be more eclectic, which may mean messy and dumb, but may mean a very comprehensive and well rounded approach.
For myself, if choosing a therapist, I would go on who the person is and their reputation....but I work in the filed and have good access to information...not their particular discipline.
One of the absolute best therapists I know, who is a psychiatrist, sees a social worker as her own therapist, for example!
I would agree with the poster who said that normal psychiatrists are the least likely to be good therapists of the three disciplines, because they are the least likely to have focussed on therapy in any well rounded and intensive way. But...where they have had such a focus, thsay can be great. They often focus on drug treatments...which is damn fine for the seriously mentally ill, and often rely on other disciplines to do the rest of the work.
In my country, I'd be very wary of "professional counsellors". I base this on knowing what their courses teach, and I am very unimpressed.
This may not be true at all where you are, though.
I am similarly unimpressed by what my own discipline's university degres consist of, and I know many psychologists who say the same about theirs.
For myself, my important skills have come from extensive study and experience that I have done since graduating, as I became more and more able to know what I needed and was interested in.
A lot of it has to do with "fit", too.
Some people just work well together.....the same therapist may not be able to work effectively with someone else.
Eg: A friend and ex-colleague of mine, a psychiatrist, went to see a psychologist for a specific phobia...in his case a cancer-phobia.
He was very happy with the person, and achieved a lot.
I decided, therefore, to see the same fella about some simple little anxiety. He was what I rudely call a "pig CBT psychologist"...ie only interested in the straight down the line, CBT-manual way of doing things.
(The manuals now acknowledge the importance of developing a relationship these days....generally...but I digress..)
I wanted to kill him after the first 5 minutes...he was like a robot. I would never have considered going back...but my friend was perfectly happy. This is "fit".
(I add that lots of psychologists are not like this at all...they are great people and great therapists for people who don't like robots!)