How to Choose the Right Therapist for You
by Jack N. Singer, Ph.D.
Is your life turned upside down? Are you suffering through unbearable emotional stress, personally or in a relationship? Have you begun to hate your job or career and see no way out? Are your kids driving you crazy and you feel like a failure as a parent? Do you have chronic illnesses and seem to live in doctors’ offices? Are you having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Do you have trouble concentrating and is your memory failing you? Life is full of dark potholes and unexpected hardships. It’s often very hard to find your way into the light without the help of a professional.
But how do you go about finding the right help? All of the helping professionals are referred to as “therapists.” How do you know if the therapist you need should be a Licensed Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Clinical Social Worker, Marriage Counselor, Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist or Family Therapist? All of these specialists are referred to as “therapists.” The Licensed Psychologist has earned a Ph.D. (9 or 10 or more years of college training and an internship) where the Clinical Social Worker and Family Therapist or Marriage Counselors are usually Masters level therapists. Psychiatrists are physicians who work primarily with emotional issues that require medication to manage the symptoms. Regardless of the title of the therapist, make certain that he/she is currently licensed in your State, because the titles “Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist,” for example, can be used by unlicensed people.
Regardless of the education and experience level of the therapist, however, you must be completely comfortable with that expert, because your comfort level is an essential ingredient in successful therapy.
How Can I Determine My Comfort Level with the Therapist Before I Make an Appointment?
Choose a therapist who is willing to speak with you briefly over the phone before you commit to an appointment. Unfortunately, these people are often few and far between, but finding a therapist who is willing, you can get a feel for the his/her listening skills, sensitivity, and concern. You want to work with a therapist who makes you feel comfortable and safe for you to divulge information that perhaps you haven’t divulged to anyone before. I am an Orange County therapist, but I also conduct phone therapy with people all over the U.S. and I offer every prospective client a free 30 minute phone consultation in order for you to feel completely comfortable with me before you make an appointment.
Experience Level of the Therapist
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, anger management therapy, mood disorders and even sport psychology issues. That’s another reason why you should interview the therapist on the phone before making an appointment. Don’t be afraid to tell him/her about your issues and candidly ask if she/he has had experience helping people with these issues.
All therapists have strict ethical guidelines they must follow, including guarding the confidentiality of everything you discuss with them. Before telling your situation to your therapist, be sure to ask her/him what situations could occur where your confidentiality will not be strictly adhered to. For example, every state has confidentiality limiting guidelines regarding child or elder abuse situations, determinations by the therapist that the client is at risk for suicide or legal cases where the client wants the therapist to testify. Ask the important confidentiality questions before telling the therapist your story.
Most competent therapists will give you an informed consent sheet spelling out the limits of confidentiality.
The Therapist’s Treatment Style
Therapists have certain methods and orientations. Some use cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, which involves changing your thinking patterns to reduce your stress and specific problems. Some therapists practice styles where they do little talking and some work very actively with the client during the session, getting involved with providing information, guidance and interpretations. Ask the therapist what his/her orientation is to be sure it matches your wishes.
If you feel comfortable with the therapist’s talking and listening style, you determine that she/he has the experience to help you with your specific issues, believe that he/she will maintain strict confidentiality of the information you provide, uses a treatment style that suits you and the therapist has appointment times that will accommodate your work/childcare schedule, then go ahead and make that first appointment.
Start Feeling Better Right Away!
Call me for a FREE 30 minute phone consultation.
If you’re looking for a face to face appointment, I am an Orange County Psychologist and would be happy to meet with you in person; however, I also conduct phone therapy with clients all over the U.S., so don’t hesitate to call even if don’t live near Orange County, CA.
Jack N. Singer, Ph.D.