Choosing The Right Therapist

Where do I start?

A good starting point for obtaining counseling services is to consult with your primary care physician. Have the doctor do a physical examination to determine if any medical illnesses may be contributing to your emotional/behavioral difficulties. If your symptoms are not related to a medical condition, psychiatric treatment may be recommended. Ask your doctor to provide you with the names and phone numbers of at least three suitable therapists. In addition to your doctor, it may also be helpful to consult family and friends who have gone through the treatment process. The best therapist recommendations often times come from someone with first hand experience.

Determining The Best Match:

To help determine the probability of a good match between you and a potential treatment provider, it is crucial to conduct a telephone consultation and to ask a lot of questions. Consider your first telephone contact and first therapy session as a two-way interview. While the treatment provider assesses you (or your child’s difficulties) and treatment needs, you are assessing the treatment provider’s personality, treatment philosophy and skill level. Ask the treatment provider the following questions:

  • Do you accept my insurance ____________________?
  • What are your fees?
  • What are your credentials? What is your professional license?
  • Do you have experience working with what I think are my ( my child’s) difficulties? How many patients with my (or my child’s) difficulties have you treated?
  • Do you have experience working with patients my (my child’s) age? What percentage of your caseload are patients my (my child’s) age?
  • What is your treatment philosophy?
  • Do you have any specialized training?
  • What is the average length of treatment for my (my child’s) type of difficulty?
  • If my child does not want to come to therapy or is uncooperative with you, how will you handle that?
  • Do you communicate and work with school staff if necessary? If you are still not sure, then ask:
  • What are your strengths as a treatment provider?
  • Is there anything else you think I need to know as a potential patient (a parent/guardian of a potential patient)?

Since most of us do not have ample experience in directly questioning a professional about his/her expertise, it may feel uncomfortable asking these kinds of questions. I urge you to put aside your discomfort. Not asking questions and adequately assessing the compatibility between you and a potential treatment provider, increases your risk of wasting your time, money and hope.

The type of responses you get to these questions may vary greatly. What often matters as much as the answers given, is the openness and sincerity with which they are given. From a credentials standpoint, you want a licensed treatment provider (or someone under the direct supervision of a licensed treatment provider) with both experience and specialized post-masters training.

In making a final decision about a treatment provider, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did the treatment provider sound professional, knowledgeable, warm and considerate?
  • Was I comfortable speaking to this treatment provider?
  • Did the treatment provider welcome my questions? Did he/she answer the questions fully or did I have to probe for more thorough responses?
  • Was the treatment provider patient with me or did I feel rushed?
  • If you left a message on the treatment provider’s voice mail or answering service — Did the treatment provider return my call within a reasonable amount of time?

I wish you the best of luck in finding a treatment provider who can most effectively serve your needs.