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Because making the right referral can make a major difference in treatment outcome, it is important to consider the different types of psychotherapy that are available. Will you benefit most from, and be best suited for cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapy, mind-body therapy, hypnotherapy, or medication? Perhaps a combination of medication and psychotherapy will work best. Is it a chronic condition or an acute condition? Will things get better if just left alone? Are you willing to make a commitment to therapy?


Understanding what these choices involve should help you to make the right choice.


Humanistic therapies run the gamut from non- directive to strongly confrontational. The underlying idea being that we all have the inner resources for growth and self-healing. The goal here is to assist the person on the road to becoming their own best self.


Interpersonal therapy combines analytic and sociological perspectives in tackling psychological problems focusing on problem relationships by analyzing relevant memories and pertinent present relationships. In this way the therapist helps the client perceive others free of the distortions of the past.


Cognitive therapy is based on the theory that how we think about ourselves and the world, strongly influences how we feel and behave, and , most importantly, that we can purposely change our thinking. Cognitive therapists are skilled at pointing out to patients their established patterns of thinking and teaching them to rethink and relabel. E.g. "People who think of themselves as poor lovers will act and feel like poor lovers."


Behavioral therapy is generally derived from the work of Pavlov and Skinner. The overriding principle here being behavior and feelings can be shaped by reward and punishment. Neurotic behavior would be viewed as a bad habit. If a negative feeling is associatively connected with a particular situation, treatment becomes a matter of conditioning, a form of retraining, to associatively connect a positive feeling with that situation.

Hypnosis can and is utilized by practitioners of the various different techniques in accordance with the demands of the particular technique they are using. The key here is not that a particular therapist uses the hypnosis in their practice, but rather that the therapist is well trained and has the skill to employ the particular technique being used, while the client is in trance and after the hypnosis.

Mind/body psychoneuroimmunology. There is a clear recognition of the influence the mind can have on the body. Chronic stress and lack of balance are seen as contributing to illness, with relaxation and functional methods of coping with stress leading to restoration of balance and health. Self responsibility is strongly encouraged and the client is seen as an active participant in all stages of treatment. Among the therapeutic modalities that the practitioner may offer are both guided and free visual imagery, biofeedback, hypnotherapy, various relaxation and empowerment techniques.

Psychodynamically oriented psychotherapy takes into consideration unconscious motives, attributing present behavior to genetic makeup and past experiences. Once you understand the experiences a person has had in their life, you've gone a long way towards understanding why they feel the way they do. Contrary to popular belief, psychodynamically oriented psychotherapy can be short-term, and some practitioners will not only provide immediate feedback, but also consider the therapeutic process to be a democratic equalitarian relationship.

Preferences as to whether a patient would prefer a male or female therapist.


Although some people relate to, or initially find it easier to discuss sensitive issues with either a male or female therapist, when all is said and done, what is important is not what the gender of the therapist was, but whether or not the person has been helped.


What is the difference between a Clinical or Counseling Psychologist and a Psychiatrist?


Both are doctors. The psychologist has a doctoral degree, Ph. D., Psy.D., or Ed.D., from a University or professional school with a specialization in Clinical or Counseling Psychology. Graduate work typically takes five or more years, and includes training in psychopathology and psychotherapy, personality theory, and psychological evaluation. As part of meeting the requirements for independent practice, psychologists complete a clinical internship and receive post-doctoral training under the supervision of a senior more experienced psychologist. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who choose to specialize in, and go on to complete additional training in mental health. Psychiatrists may or may not prescribe psychotropic drugs as a part of their therapeutic approach.


If I were choosing a psychologist I would try to find one who is a Diplomate in Clinical or Counseling Psychology of the American Board of Professional Psychology, but would not let that be the sole criteria. Another consideration, not only in choosing a psychologist, but any mental health professional would be to find one who enjoys a good professional reputation in the community. I would choose a psychologist who is well trained in several techniques, has a good sense of humor, is supportive, returns telephone calls, and helps clients set realistic goals that are achievable within a reasonable period of time.


Whenever possible , the patient should take the responsibility for making an informed and educated choice. I feel that it is important that they meet with, and interview the potential therapist not being shy about inquiring about that therapists credentials, and discussing therapeutic goals. Then, after the meeting, asking themselves if they feel comfortable enough with this person to discuss their innermost thoughts and feelings.


Aaron Karnilow, Ph.D. is a Diplomate in Clinical Psychology of the American Board of Professional Psychology, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Clinical Psychology. Dr. Karnilow is a former Director of the Department of Rehabilitation Psychology at one of the largest hospitals in the US. He specializes in individual and marital counseling , and has been in practice for over 25 years. Dr. Karnilow’s office is located in the Windward Professional Pavilion at 4895 Windward Parkway, Suite 203, Alpharetta, GA  30004, and he can be reached at (678) 566-5000.



Windward PsychologySM

Aaron Karnilow, Ph.D., P.C.
4895 Windward Parkway, Suite 203, Alpharetta, GA  30004
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To schedule an appointment or if you have any questions
Please call Dr. Karnilow at: (678) 566-5000






How to Choose a Psychologist


The information contained on this page is to be used for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a qualified licensed health care professional who should be consulted prior to beginning any healthcare program.  This section includes a description of some of the more popular therapies, as well as tips on how to choose a therapist.



For more information on the importance of Board Certification, click here.


The individuals appearing in photos on this page are for illustrative purposes only and are not actual clients.

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Aaron Karnilow, Ph.D., ABPP, FAACP

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