Bearly anyone can call themselves a therapist and start counseling patients

There are many reasons for that gap between research and practice, but part of it comes from the rift between who is studying treatments and who is delivering care.

Most people don’t realize that “therapist” is a catch-all term that doesn’t tell you anything about how qualified someone is to help you. People who dole out talk therapy can be psychiatrists, who have completed all the training of other medical doctors and then specialized in mental health; clinical psychologists, who have either Ph.Ds or a specialty degree called a Psy.D; or licensed clinical social workers, who have completed a master’s degree and clinical training. But they can also be none of the above.

In fact, nearly anyone can call themselves a therapist and start counseling patients, and some practitioners — even some who have completed training programs of various lengths — never receive instruction on what research has shown about how and when various kinds of talk therapy are most effective.

“Compare that to something like traditional medical training,” says Gaudiano. Even when doctors “are not actively engaged in research, there’s this assumption that they should be basing what they’re doing on evidence-based standards. We don’t have that yet in mental health.”

Read more: