5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Therapist
Almost half the U.S. population will experience some form of mental illness at some point in their lives, yet many people are reluctant to seek professional help. For many women, looking for a therapist is an overwhelming process. Some women find it to be burdensome, only adding to their struggles. This can leave them with more feelings of despair and helplessness, rather than hope. But finding the right therapist can truly make all the difference in the world.
Look at Lucy, for example. Lucy has battled depression for most of her adult life. She has struggled with extensive periods of isolation, a number of health conditions (later to find out several were related to her battle with depression) and dominant, continuous feelings of sadness. Lucy felt stuck and was ready to give up.
Lucy’s sister knew she had been struggling and lovingly encouraged her to seek professional help. What her sister did not know was that Lucy had previously searched the Internet on more than one occasion but was overwhelmed by the number of results. Lucy’s sister sat down with her to help her determine what kind of therapist would be suitable, so they could narrow the results down to the right match for her. Lucy ultimately found a compassionate therapist who has worked with women needing depression help for more than 25 years, and today Lucy is well on her way to recovery.
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Like Lucy, you too can find help. Whether you struggle with depression, substance abuse, or any other mental health disorder, you can confidently narrow down your options to determine if a therapist is right for you, without feeling defeated.
Do You Like the Therapist?
It may seem odd that this question is at the top of the list, but therapy is a relationship, and it is important that you enjoy the person you are in a relationship with. It is not meant to be a friendship, nor should it ever be like a romantic relationship. But you will spend much of your time talking to this person who will be your companion along your path to recovery, sometimes facing painful realities and decisions together, so it is important that you respect, trust and like your therapist.
What is the Therapist’s Approach and Will it Work for You?
There are many different therapeutic approaches, just as there are many different types of people needing therapy. Some therapists are somewhat passive in their role, while others are more active. It is important to know what approach a prospective therapist uses, what it means and whether it is suitable for you.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps patients with mental illnesses to identify inaccurate perceptions they may have about themselves and the world around them. The therapist’s goal is to help that perception to change, establishing new ways of thinking.
- Interpersonal Therapy emphasizes a patient’s behaviors and interactions with friends and family. With this approach, therapists typically strive to increase self-esteem while improving communication skills.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is often used for patients who are considered to be more high risk. In DBT, clients participated in at least one individual therapy session and one group therapy session each week. Additionally, they have access to phone coaching with their therapist between sessions. DBT teaches clients concrete skills to change their patterns of thinking, moving away from black-or-white or all-or-nothing thinking.
- Psychodynamic Therapy is a form of therapy used for patients with emotional challenges that result from unresolved conflicts, many of which are unconscious and stem from childhood. This form of therapy can be administered over a longer duration of time, extending anywhere from several months to years in some cases.
Also feel free to ask the therapist what the advantages or disadvantages are to varying approaches to treatment, including medications.
Is the Therapist Experienced in Working with Issues Like Yours?
Many therapists are legally licensed to treat a number of issues, but not all have experience treating everything and not all are good at everything. Most therapists do have skills and experience in treating more common issues like anxiety, stress and depression, yet not all of them are skilled in treating marital conflict, grief, work-related issues, substance abuse or trauma. Ask potential therapists if they have experience and/or training with issues like your own.
How Much Will Treatment Cost?
Not all therapists are covered by health insurance plans. First, determine your budget. You should also find out if your insurance is accepted. It is also wise to find out how much it will cost.
You may want to find out if any discounts are available that could help offset some of the out-of-pocket cost. Some centers and clinics offer discounts for psychological services based on income or other factors.
How Often Will You See the Therapist?
Some therapists and programs require more frequent meetings. Is your schedule flexible, or can you make adjustments to meet this requirement?
Some people want a therapist they can contact outside of therapy sessions in the event of an emergency or if a question should come up. Does the therapist offer a way to get in contact, should you need them?
Also keep in mind that if a therapist works in a small private practice, their ability to take in last-minute calls or meetings may be limited. Those who work in larger clinics may be more readily available and may even offer a 24/7 crisis hotline. If you like the added comfort of being able to make contact with your therapist last minute or outside of the office, discuss this with potential therapists before you commit to treatment.
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