Understanding how to choose a therapist that's right for you

Vail Health Behavioral Health strives to increase access to behavioral health services. When seeking behavioral health services, all patients have the right to be informed of the qualifications and credentials of the therapists with whom they seek to work. This includes educational background, clinical training, supervision, as well as licensure and registration status. 

There are varying degrees and levels of professional and legal requirements for behavioral health practitioners. These requirements may also vary by state. VHBH recognizes that selecting a provider can be a confusing process. We hope the information below can assist in provider selection. VHBH works to ensure this information is accurate and reflective of our community. If you have any questions or concerns, please email us at eaglevalleybh@vailhealth.org.  

In Colorado, the following list outlines the regulatory requirements applicable to mental health professionals:
  • A Licensed Psychologist (PsyD or PhD) must hold a doctorate degree in psychology (typically 4 or more years of study) and have at least one year of post-doctoral supervision (oversight by a licensing board-approved professional). 
  • A Licensed Psychiatrist (MD) must hold a medical doctorate degree (typically 4 years of study) and complete 4 years of supervised postgraduate education (often referred to as a residency). Psychiatrists may prescribe medications.
  • A Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) holds nurse practitioner degree (typically 2-5 years of study) with either a specialty masters degree or specialty clinical doctorate degree. PMHNP may prescribe medications. 
  • A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), and a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) must hold a masters degree in their profession (typically 2 years of study) and have two years of post-masters supervision.
  • A Licensed Social Worker (LSW) must hold a masters degree in social work.
  • A Psychologist Candidate, a Marriage and Family Therapist Candidate, and a Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate must hold the necessary licensing degree and be in the process of completing the required supervision for licensure.
  • A Certified Addiction Counselor I (CAC I) must be a high school graduate, and  complete required training hours and 1000 hours of supervised experience. A CAC II must complete additional required training hours and 2,000 hours of supervised experience. A CAC III must have a bachelors degree in behavioral health, and complete additional required training hours and 2,000 hours of supervised experience.
  • A Licensed Addiction Counselor must have a clinical masters degree and meet the CAC III requirements.
  • A Registered Psychotherapist is registered with the State Board of Registered Psychotherapists, is not licensed or certified, and no degree, training or experience is required.
In addition to receiving information on your provider’s educational background, you are entitled to receive information from your therapist about the methods of therapy, the techniques used, the expected duration of therapy, and the fee structure.  You may stop your involvement in therapy at any time.  You can seek a second opinion from another therapist at any time at your own expense.

It is also important to know that in a professional relationship (like a psychotherapy relationship), sexual intimacy is never appropriate and should be reported to the board that licenses, registers, or certifies the licensee, registrant or certificate holder. 

In Colorado, the practice of psychotherapy is regulated by the CO State Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA). Any questions, concerns or complaints may be directed to the Mental Health Licensing Section of the Division of Registrations (303) 894-7800.

Please feel free to talk with your provider at any time should you have any questions about any of the information outlined above.


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