Finding the Right Therapist to Treat Your Depression
One of the most frequently given answers to the questions given on any mental health site including our own is to seek the help of a therapist. But what if you don't have one? How do you go about getting one and how do you decide if they are good or not? And once you have been in therapy for some sessions, what happens when you decide that it just isn't a good match?
I hope to give you some answers to these questions as well as provide you with some resources to guide you towards finding a good quality therapist. Hopefully you will not reach the point of having to fire your therapist but I will give guidance there as well. I have been there and done that!
So how do you find a therapist?
There are a lot of different places one could look for a therapist but here is a short list:
* A recommendation from your General Practitioner
* If you are in school, the school counselor or college health center
* Ask your friends
* Community Mental Health Centers
* Recommendations from local mental health support groups
* Churches and religious institutions
* Your provider list from your insurance company if you have one.
You can also find a therapist by looking on this Psychology Today website:
It is very simple. Just plug in your zipcode and what issues you are dealing with and viola you have a grand list of therapists to choose from.
But what if I don't have insurance and/or money?
When I was a teen I had no money and no insurance. I did get help though from my local community center. My boyfriend's mother called them up and set me up with an appointment with a graduate student in training to become a social worker. While it was not the ideal situation it did help in the short term.
In addition to calling your local mental health center some therapists have a sliding fee scale for those who do not have insurance. I have also heard of people having good luck getting help through joining a local mental health support group. Sometimes it helps more to be with others who have experience in dealing with mental health issues first hand.
Also The National Mental Health Information Center web site has a very detailed list of how one can get to see a therapist if you have no money or are uninsured. You may find that information here.
I wanted to also give you this link to a google forum where there is the best and most exhaustive answer to this question that I have ever seen. Please check out this link for everything you ever wanted to know about how to get therapy when you are uninsured.
What Makes a Good Quality Therapist?
Well basically someone who is a good match for you! However one basic criteria is to find someone who has the training and education to help you and has the credentials to prove it. In an article by Erin Johnston entitled, "What to Look for in Choosing a Therapist," the author says to look for the following credentials: "It is important that you choose a therapist who is licensed to practice independently, such as: LCPC, LPCC, LSCW, LISW, PhD, MD." But now having said this I will also say that while credentials are nice, what matters most is the relationship that you have with your counselor or therapist.
There are good and bad quality therapists to be found within any field. Your therapist's degree does not guarantee that you will benefit from therapy. So does the therapist's method matter any in the quality of therapy you will receive? In a Psychology Today article on When to Fire Your Therapist, the author states:
"Research into various types of therapy (psychoanalysis, psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral therapy, etc.) has found that it may not be the approach itself but the relationship you have with the therapist that most accounts for improvement. The cognitive behavioral approach, for example, has much to recommend it, but it can be executed poorly, too rigidly, or not rigorously enough."
I do believe this to be true. I think that while there are certainly some methods which may be more tailored for some issues, the methodology matters less than the relationship you build with your therapist. He or she may have all the techniques in the world but lack the ability to connect with you.
My personal preference for method of therapy is "interpersonal" where the therapist is helping you to work on your relationships with others.
What Specific Traits Should You Look For?
* Someone who is able to listen. This seems like common sense but not all therapists are good listeners. Ask yourself, "Do I feel understood?" Does the therapist make you feel validated and like they are really listening?
* Someone who makes you feel emotionally safe. It is very difficult to talk about some topics in therapy. But in order to truly move forward you are going to have to put a lot of trust into this person in order to discuss those emotionally difficult topics. Does this person show compassion and empathy? Does he or she put you at ease? Do you feel you can trust this person?
* The therapist works with you as a partner in goal setting. When you enter therapy it is a collaborative event. You are working as a team for your mental health. As such, goals should be mutually decided upon. You don't want a therapist who sets the agenda without your consent.
* You want a therapist who shows respect for some clear boundaries. You should not have to guess at their motivations or ulterior motives. If your gut tells you that something just isn't right, it probably isn't. They are not there to be your friend, lover, or parent. They have a special role as your therapist with appropriate and clear guidelines.
* They should talk and provide guidance! Contrary to popular belief, the therapist should not just sit there and say nothing while nodding their head at set intervals. It is my opinion that a good therapist does offer empathy, support, validation, an verbal assessment of your issues, and also should provide techniques and tools to help you with these issues. While it is not a therapist's role to tell you what to do, he or she should help you to get to the point where you can make choices in your life. And this means to me, that they should play an active role within your therapy.
These are but some of my personal suggestions. The bottom line is that you should feel safe, understood, and able to work on personal goals with the person you select as your therapist.
So what happens when there are problems? I will address this issue in Part Two of this series.
And now I want to hear from you. If you have a therapist how did you choose him or her? What qualities do you feel are essential in the therapeutic relationship? The sharing of your experience can help others along their journey. Tell us your story. We want to hear it.