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What's Up Magazine

Making the Right Choice

Nov 24, 2014 03:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Kathy Miller, M.A. L.C.P.C.

(Editor’s note: The holidays are bearing down on us and some of us aren’t bearing up all that well. The holidays are, legendarily, an especially stressful time. Elevated expectations, lowered bank accounts, and always the inescapable disappointment—both received and delivered. Perhaps, you think, the time has come to speak with a professional therapist. But where can you begin? Below, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor shares her thoughts.)

Awareness that you need to find a therapist can come in several ways. It can be something you have thought about for a while and decide to move forward with. It can be a very difficult passage such as a divorce or bereavement, or it can be a crisis where an emergency room visit is needed. Therapy can be a very effective way to address mental and emotional problems.

Good therapists will not do the work for you and don’t tell you what to do. The professionally trained therapist will help you develop the resources you need to overcome emotional challenges and help you make decisions that are “right for you.” Therapy is a very different relationship than talking with a friend. The therapist is objective and will help you discuss difficult subjects that friends will avoid.

People consider working with a therapist to be a “private matter,” making it difficult to know who or where to go for a referral or recommendation. (Even in 2014 seeking help from a therapist still has a stigma attached to it.) “Get past the stigma. The outcome is too important,” says Robert Baker, Ph.D., director of the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans. Start with friends, family, and colleagues who have shared they have worked with a therapist. Also, your pastor or rabbi, school counselor, or favorite teacher are safe and knowledgeable sources.

Another option is checking with your primary care physician. He/she works in the community and hears from patients who are happy with their provider. Also, check with your insurance carrier. They should have an up-to-date list of therapists in your medical plan.

Use the web to learn more about local therapists, but be aware that many therapists do not have websites.

After you have collected three or four names, contact them and…

  • Talk with them about the nature of your condition or problem. Make sure to ask if they treat the specific issues you discuss with them.
  • * Ask the therapist about his/her training. What is their area of interest; discuss if they are trained to do marriage counseling, work with children and adolescents, or address relationship issues.
  • Feel free to ask how they typically proceed with patients, i.e., work with the parent as well if they treat a child, see both people from the beginning in marriage counseling, etc.
  • Check to see if the provider is in your network and what are their fees. Find out what your insurance will cover and what will be your out of pocket costs.

Pay attention to how you feel when you talk with the therapist on the phone when you interview him/her. Are you comfortable? Does it feel like it might be a good fit? If not, don’t make an appointment with that person. Trust your feelings. The relationship and “fit” with the therapist outweighs other factors such as training, credentials, or which method of therapy is used. Remember, you will need to develop trust and feel like you can discuss sensitive topics so you want the therapist to feel non-judgmental and “safe”.