Mental Health TherapistTweet
Looking for a therapist is a constructive positive thing to do in your life. It does not matter if you are seeking help for larger mental health issues, or if you need help gaining clarity or distance in a specific situation.
A therapist can act as a supportive and caring professional to help you through whatever is going on in your life.
Is my personal information safe when I go to any therapist? Is he/she going to leak my discussion with him/her?
You can rest assured that all mental health professionals are ethically bound to keep what you say during therapy confidential. Because we seek therapy for such deeply personal and often hurtful problems, it is important to find someone you like and respect. In the beginning, it can be hard to talk about deeply personal issues with a total stranger. Your therapist knows this and should do everything in his or her power to help you feel comfortable.
Due to therapy's personal nature, it is important to realize that not everyone will suit your needs. The clearer the mental picture you have about how therapy can help you, the easier it will be to find the right person. If you are not comfortable with your therapist, it is necessary to shop around.
How to choose a therapist for you?
- See your primary care physician to rule out a medical cause of your problems. If your thyroid is "sluggish," for example, your symptoms-such as loss of appetite and fatigue-could be mistaken for depression.
- After you know your problems are not caused by a medical condition, find out what the mental health coverage is under your insurance policy or through Medicaid/Medicare.
- Obtaining referrals for a therapist is always a good idea. A friend, coworker, or family member might recommend someone. You can also ask your doctor or local minister for a referral.
- Specify age, sex, race, or religious background if those characteristics are important to you.
- Call to find out about appointment availability, location, and fees. Ask the receptionist:
- Does the mental health professional offer a sliding-scale fee based on income?
- Does he or she accept your health insurance or Medicaid/Medicare?
- Make sure the therapist has experience helping people whose problems are similar to yours. You may want to ask the receptionist about the therapist's expertise, education, and number of years in practice.
- Interviewing several therapists might help you sense whom you feel the most comfortable with.
- If you are satisfied with the answers, make an appointment.
- During your first visit, describe those feelings and problems that led you to seek help. Find out:
- What kind of therapy/treatment program he or she recommends;
- Does the therapist accept your insurance?
- Is the therapist's payment schedule within your means?
- Does the therapist have experience working with your specific challenges?
- Whether it has proven effective for dealing with problems such as yours;
- What the benefits and side effects are;
- How much therapy the mental health professional recommends; and
- Whether he or she is willing to coordinate your care with another practitioner if you are personally interested in exploring credible alternative therapies, such as acupuncture.
- Ask any specific questions about a preferred treatment on the phone.
- Ask any other questions to assist you over the phone.
- Be sure the psychotherapist does not take a "cookie cutter" approach to your treatment-what works for one person with major depression does not necessarily work for another. Different psychotherapies and medications are tailored to meet specific needs.
- Although the role of a therapist is not to be a friend, rapport is a critical element of successful therapy. After your initial visit, take some time to explore how you felt about the therapist.
- If the answers to these questions and others you come up with are "yes," schedule another appointment to begin the process of working together to understand and overcome your problems. If the answers to most of these questions are "no," call another mental health professional from your referral list and schedule another appointment.
Other important points in finding a therapist:
If you are looking for help with a specific issue, there are specialized organizations on the web to assist you. They might provide referrals to someone locally with experience working with your issue.
If you do not have access to these resources, you can find someone yourself. The internet can provide names, phone numbers, and short descriptions of clinicians. The phone book provides names and numbers. If you choose the phone book, take your time interviewing your new therapist, and talk to more than one before settling on one.
If you have specific questions to weed out therapists, call and ask these over the phone before setting up a personal interview.
Before your first meeting, I strongly suggest getting details about their certifications, including certification number with the State Board of Behavioral Sciences. Then, contact the State Board of Behavioral Sciences and ask if there are any actions against them. Many states have this information available on the web.