Finding the Right Therapist for You
When people are overwhelmed with life's problems, seeking the assistance of a quality counselor can be a challenging task. People have the right to expect a high level of professional expertise when it comes to selecting a therapist. There are a variety of considerations to ponder when shopping for a "good fit" within the counseling community. Here some issues to consider:
What are the counselor's credentials?
Makes sure the therapist, whether a psychologist, professional counselor, or social worker is licensed in the state where he practices. This is more important than his title. Explore any specialized training the therapist has gained through on-going education. Make sure that the counselor has specialized training in dealing with the presenting problem you bring to the counseling process. Ask about the counselor's approach to dealing with clients. What is his treatment modality? For example, if you are suffering from grief and loss, you may want a therapist who is more supportive and affirming in his approach.
Do I stay within my managed care's list of treatment providers?
Make sure you get a list of providers from your PPO or HMO and contact each of them individually. The counselor's response time in returning your call should be a significant factor in who you will select for your therapist. However, never make an appointment until you have talked directly to the therapist and asked your questions. If the therapist is not open to talking with you about your case, then it's time to move on. Going out of your managed care network may cost you more money, but it may be worth it. Many quality counselors have now moved outside the managed care system for various reasons. Most importantly for the mental health consumer, are the issues of confidentiality of records and treatment restrictions. Counselors within a cash fee structure are not obligated to turn over documentation to managed care administrators. Managed care organizations also provide cost-containment restrictions on the number of visits per member, and may also put constraints on the frequency of visits. They at times also prohibit family and addictions counseling.
During a telephonic consultation with a therapist, what questions should I explore?
- What are your fees?
- How soon can you see me?
- What techniques or approaches to counseling do you employ?
- How long have you been in practice?
- What populations do you work with?
- What are your areas of specialization?
- Where did you receive your schooling and training?
- Are you a contributing writer in your areas of expertise?
What qualities should I look for in a competent therapist?
- A strong knowledge-base regarding your particular problem.
- A high degree of sensitivity to your needs and desires for assistance.
- A compassionate, empathetic individual.
- A therapist who appears authentic — who doesn't come across as an "expert" on everything, but seems genuine.
- A counselor who collaborates with you on appropriate treatment goals and moves the counseling process in that direction.
- A counselor who is not afraid to share a bias regarding value differences.
- A counselor who trusts his instincts as therapy unfolds.
- A counselor who is not afraid to use timely and appropriate disclosure in therapy.
- A counselor who is proactive and pragmatic in assisting clients in solving problems.
How will I know if the counseling process is working out for me?
A counselor will be engaged in your session. He will never dominate a session with his own issues or advice. She will be non-judgmental in her communications and never make demeaning comments. An effective counselor will listen carefully to a patient before offering observations and perspectives. An effective counselor tries to be affirming, nurturing, and soothing. However, sometimes the truth "hurts."
An individual looking for a quality counselor has the right to expect positive customer service. This means prompt return of phone calls, flexibility in scheduling appointments and clear explanations of the counseling process including fees, patient rights, values and risks of treatment, and collaborative development of therapeutic goals.
James P. Krehbiel is an author, a contributing writer to familyresource.com, and a cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. He can be reached through his website at krehbielcounseling.com.