If you’ve decided you want to talk to a therapist, it’s time to do some research. If you feel what I do when faced with needing a plumber, electrician, an accountant or tax expert, you might be tempted to throw up your hands in defeat. Instead just start your search. Today the internet gives you an amazing array of possible ways to locate names in your part of the world. Or your insurance company, if you plan to use insurance, will likely have a list of qualified providers. That is, however, just a first step. You need recommendations beyond what you find on line or on a lengthy provider list. If you are fortunate enough to know someone who is a psychologist or social worker, that’s where you start. Ask for recommendations. Also, if you have a friend or family member who has had a successful relationship and outcome with a psychologist or social worker, that’s your short cut. Your family physician or minister or spiritual leader can also be an excellent resource.
You need to talk to the person you decide you want to try and INTERVIEW THEM. That’s right, ask questions about their theoretical approach, their training, their years in practice, their specialty, and their fees and methods of accepting payment. And ask anything else that is important to you. For women, I highly suggest you ask if the individual is familiar with the vast research on the psychology of women and whether that influences the approach the therapist takes. AND if a therapist has a negative response to being interviewed, you are probably talking to the wrong person.
Several months ago, a woman in a workshop I was conducting shared the following experience. She and her husband found a couples therapist on line, read a few recommendations and made an appointment. When they got there, the therapist took off her shoes, sat back in her chair, and began to talk about her own marital problems. AND she interrupted the session to take a call on her cell! I like to think things like that happen INFREQUENTLY but it’s only one in a long, long list of distressing reports I get from dissatisfied clients seeking a new therapist. The step they left out was the interview — as well as the personal referrals which are sometimes available.
You also need to examine whether you want someone with a reflective approach — who will just listen, affirm, and take a fairly passive role — vs someone who will interact with you, ask questions, and make concrete suggestions aout things you might try to improve your life and get you on a less stressful pathway. You may also want to give thought to whether you are more comfortable with a female or male therapist. If you are a lesbian or gay, consider whether it’s important for your therapist to share your sexual orientation. The basics for choices are different for everyone, depending on the situation you are facing and wanting help with.
Once you have an initial session with the individual you decide to work with, do not feel obligated to return if for any reason you are uncomfortable or don’t feel it’s a good “fit” …and if you are feeling doubt, raise any questions DURING the session that you think would help you to feel you are in the right place, with the right person.
AND if there’s anything in my suggestions that feel incomplete, unclear, or need clarification, feel free to send me an email or call my office and I’ll help as much as I can. And if you think you need help, take that first step. It’s never quite as difficult or uncomfortable as you may be thinking!