When people call for therapy appointments everyone wants the most experienced therapist or psychologist available. While this person may be helpful and insightful, you may be overlooking a diamond in the rough. The competent but less experienced therapist may have many benefits to offer you that you may not have even considered when selecting a therapist. Let me take you through some of the benefits of seeing a less experienced therapist.
You will receive evidence based treatment
Your student therapist must be supervised by a licensed professional in order to provide psychotherapy. This means that the student’s clinical supervisor, likely a psychologist, will be providing support, help and feedback to your therapist. The clinical psychologist along with your therapist will select the best and most appropriate treatment plan based on your presenting symptoms, concerns and goals. In reality, you will have two people thinking and discussing the best way to help you. So in a way, you get two people working together to help you for the price of one!
Therapy will be less costly
More often than not, a therapist in training does not charge the same price as the professional. Since student therapists are in a learning phase of their development most clinics charge a lower rate to be seen by students. In this way, having a student therapist can offer you the opportunity to have therapy when you might not otherwise afford it. Also teaching clinics generally want to help their communities so do not be afraid to reach out if you have financial limitations. Many clinics offer a sliding scale so you may just find what you are looking for.
Your therapist will be invested in your progress
A student therapist is likely going to hold a smaller caseload than a seasoned professional. This means that your therapist will be spending a good amount of time outside of session considering your issues and thinking of the best ways to help you through them. They may go out of their way to research additional tools or strategies. They may design behavioural experiments tailored to your specific needs. Essentially, you are likely to end up with someone who may spend more time outside the session invested in your treatment.
Student therapists can help
Will I get better with a student therapist? The short answer to this question is yes. Research shows that student therapists that receive supervision and use evidence based models are able to achieve the same results with their patients as their more experienced counterparts (Öst, Karlstedt & Widén, 2012; Mason, Grey & Veale, 2015). The only caveat is when people are experiencing very severe psychological conditions.
All in all, student therapists are still highly qualified individuals that have undertaken years of advanced training to have the opportunity to work in the field. While you may see them as students, they are very close to being professionals themselves. So if you want evidenced based therapy provided by someone who is empathetic and really invested in your progress you may want to choose the student therapist.
Mason, L., Grey, N., & Veale, D. (2016). My therapist is a student? The impact of therapist experience and client severity on cognitive behavioural therapy outcomes for people with anxiety disorders. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 44(2), 193-202.
Öst, L. G., Karlstedt, A., & Widén, S. (2012). The effects of cognitive behavior therapy delivered by students in a psychologist training program: An effectiveness study. Behavior Therapy, 43(1), 160-173.