|March 26, 2016|
A question I'm asked quite frequently of someone seeking psychotherapy is, "How do I find the right psychotherapist for me?" The first thing I recommend is ask around for a referral from family members, friends, and coworkers. It is then I realize there is still a stigma around getting psychological help. Many people just don't feel comfortable asking people in their own lives. Either they don't want others to know that they need help; or they're afraid of making other people uncomfortable if they asked them!
1. Ask people you know for a suggestion.
2. Check the yellow pages.
The yellow pages is still second to word-of-mouth for psychotherapy
referrals. Yellow pages advertising usually requires that professionals be licensed to list under certain categories. While going to a licensed professional does not guaranteed a good therapeutic fit, you can make certain assumptions:
This professional has the education and training
needed to pass licensure requirements in the State.
Professional categories to look under are:
The internet is also a source for finding
reputable professionals to help you. Just
look for the same credentials that you look
for from other referral sources.
As a point of clarification, Psychologists have a PhD and do psychotherapy and
psychological testing. Psychiatrists are MD's or DO's (medical doctors)
who have a specialty in Psychiatry. So, they can also be found under
Physicians in your yellow pages directory. Psychiatrists can prescribe
and manage psychotropic medications, but most do not do psychotherapy.
3. Get a Referral from Another Professional
Other professionals who deal with people in distress, such as Other Therapists, Medical Doctors, Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, Attorneys, Human Resource Offices at
Businesses, Teachers and School Psychologists and Counselors, and Police and the Courts all may be appropriate sources for referrals. Some communities also have a referral systems. For example, Physicians Referral, which is a call in service.
Let's go through some differences in therapists:
Would you feel more comfortable with a man or a woman?
As a note, sometimes clients believe that they cannot get understanding from a therapist unless the therapist has had the same experiences. For example, "I can't go to a therapist who has never been married", or "She can't understand, she's never had children, or "He's advising me, and he's divorced!" "He's never lost anyone, how could he know how I feel."
There is a reason why therapists do not talk about their personal lives, and this is one of them. Psychologists go through extensive training to become professionals in their field. Part of that training often involves the therapist becoming the patient so that they can work through their own personal issues before trying
to help others. Just as the medical doctor has not had all illnesses, psychologists haven't experienced every human experience, but they learn through training and experience.
Now take a look at your situation?
Do you need somebody who specializes in your problem? Unless a therapist lists a particular specialty in their advertising, most therapists are general practitioners and can handle most problems.
Do you need medication? Most often a person doesn't know if they need medication. In this case,it's usually best to schedule an appointment with someone other than a psychiatrist. If you need a psychiatrist, you will be referred to one.
Is the problem more an individual issue or a relationships issue? If
most of your misery is stemming from your relationship, and your
partner is willing, start with a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. These professionals have had additional training and experience that qualifies them specifically for the Marriage and Family Therapist licensure. Again, this doesn't guarantee they will be good therapists, but it does mean they have met certain requirements in the field.
If you are having sexual difficulties, you might want to seek help from a certified Sex Therapist. I find it is better to seek help from licensed professional who also has experience and training in sexual dysfunction. The field of Sex Therapy is somewhat less regulated than the others mentioned, so you want to make sure this individual is someone who is reputable.
What type of psythotherapy do you feel will be most helpful to you?
What is the average length of treatment?
Some have more difficult acute disorders like a major depressive disorder which may also need medication and weekly therapy until the depression is reduced. Of those who take antidepressant medication, some do remain on medication for years to maintain health. The majority stay on medication for 6 months to 2 years, depending on their particular case.
Eating Disorders and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, for example, can be stubborn to treat in that they have impacted at many levels of the clients life. In the most difficult PTSD cases, two to three years of therapy is not uncommon. In the case of eating disorders, it can take longer.
That's only a small sample of possibilities, it really depends on the client's response to therapy and their life situation and the resources available to them in the community. For eating disordered people, for example, there are excellent inpatient treatment
programs that can be lifesaving, and therapy would be a follow up to that.
Hopefully I have shed some small light on the mysterious world of psychotherapy.
These are suggestions for finding a therapist. One of the things I do not
address is "the personality factor". There really is no way to access your comfort level
with a therapist until you meet with him or her. Since the first session is usually
information gathering, give the new therapist two or three sessions to see if your
personalities are compatible for entering into this most important trusting relationship
with one another.
About the Author
Dr. Jennifer Sowle, PhD., is a licensed Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist. She is also a certified Sex Educator and Counselor. Dr. Sowle's website, http://here-to-listen.com gives information on psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and eating disorders. She also gives advice on individual, sexual, and relationship problems and shares case studies from her practice.
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