Choosing a mental health therapist
Psychotherapy is a collaborative process, so finding the right match is important. When you find someone, keep in mind that therapy is work and sometimes can be painful. However, it can also be rewarding and life changing.
What are the steps for choosing a therapist?
1. See your primary care physician to rule out a medical cause of your problems. If your thyroid is “sluggish,” for example, your symptoms– such as loss of appetite and fatigue– could be mistaken for depression.
2. Find out what coverage your insurance provides for mental health care.
3. Get two or three referrals before making an appointment. Specify age, sex, race, or religious background if those characteristics are important to you. See Where to find help.
4. Call and ask the receptionist to find out about appointment availability, location, and fees.
- Does the therapist offer a sliding-scale fee based on income?
- Does he or she accept your health insurance or Medicaid/Medicare?
5. Make sure the therapist has experience helping people whose problems are similar to yours. You may want to ask the receptionist about the therapist’s credentials, expertise, education, and number of years in practice.
6. If you are satisfied with the answers, make an appointment. Ask if the therapist offers a brief telephone conversation at no charge that will allow you to decide if it’s a good fit.
7. During your first visit, describe the feelings and problems that led you to seek help. Ask what kind of treatment program and how much therapy he or she recommends.
8. Be sure the psychotherapist does not take a “cookie cutter” approach to your treatment–what works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Different psychotherapies and medications are tailored to meet specific needs.
9. Although the role of a therapist is not to be a friend, rapport is a critical element of successful therapy. After your initial visit, take some time to explore how you felt about the therapist.
10. If you are satisfied with the answers to these questions and any others you have, schedule another appointment to begin the process of working together to understand and overcome your problems. If not, call another mental health professional from your referral list and schedule another appointment.