…and more. Location, Location
Proximity is actually very important. People make excuses when it comes to therapy: “I can’t make my appointment today because it’s too far…” Location should not become an obstacle. If there are no therapists in your zip code, try those in a town nearby.
Check out the photo profiles of therapists in your area. Do you think you’ll be comfortable discussing the secrets of your life with this person?
Ask yourself if you’ll be more comfortable with a male or female therapist. Or, if you need one who speaks Spanish, Chinese or Arabic.
The Right Stuff
Find a professional who has treated people with problems similar to those you face. Often a therapist focuses on specific issues such as eating disorders, sexual dysfunction or mood disorders. You can custom search the Directory to find therapists who specialize in these areas. And, of course, find out what treatment the therapist employs as well as his results.
Sometimes a therapist works closely with particular populations such as adolescents, gay couples or people of particular religious backgrounds. Be sure to learn your therapist’s focus.
Ph.D., M.D., Psy.D., M.S.W.-don’t fuss over credentials and degrees. What you really need is a therapist who will connect with you. But if you want to decipher a provider’s credentials and differentiate psychologists and psychiatrists from family therapists and social workers, see Psychology Today’s professionals. All Directory therapists are trained and licensed.
Therapists have certain methods and orientations. Some use cognitive behavioral therapy, for example. A variety of methods are effective. However, if you want to learn more about therapy methods, see Psychology Today’s article What’s Your Orientation?.
Contact two or three therapists. You will most likely get voicemail. Don’t hang up; leave your name and number.
On your first visit, ask yourself, “Do we click?” Do you feel a connection with your therapist? For you to reveal yourself, you will need to feel safe and at ease. The first session is normally free, so if you don’t click, move on to the next one.
In The Pocket
When you do settle on a therapist, settle on fee beforehand. You may also need to inquire about a sliding-scale arrangement-a flexible fee schedule adjusted to your needs or income.
There’s a confusing array of insurance arrangements-HMO’s, MBHO’s, private pay. But the first thing you need to do is check with your carrier. Make a list of questions, including how many visits the insurer will pay for, does the carrier cover a percentage of cost only, the difference between providers who are in-network and out-of-network, and is primary care physician approval required.
After the carrier has answered all your queries, ask your therapist about coverage too. Bring up matters such as co-payment, how other patients handle insurance and payment, or whether your diagnosis will go on your record. Arm yourself with information, so you don’t end up with surprises.
Equally critical is sharing the same values. One would think that psychotherapy is value-free, but finding a therapist who shares your beliefs is necessary. You are building a relationship, so starting at the core is important. If struggling with a partner in a relationship has brought you to therapy, for example, you certainly want to know how the therapist feels about cohabitation before marriage.
Are You Listening?
Does your therapist have good listening skills? Don’t laugh, but you need to be sure she is attentive and hears what you have to say. That’s why it’s called talk therapy. Is she asking the right questions, is she asking enough of them?
A therapist shouldn’t be too eager to please. Say you suffer from self-esteem problems, it does no good if the therapist does nothing more than flatter you. Instead, choose one who will challenge you. You will want one who is proactive and perhaps gives you assignments. She might ask you to read up on your issues or to conduct an experiment. The road to good mental health takes work.
Ask the provider how long therapy should last. Don’t accept a vague answer. If the person is experienced, he or she should have an idea of what you can expect.