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Tips for finding a psychotherapist
May 9, 2015
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Looking for a psychotherapist can be a difficult task. There are many things to consider. Here are a few tips, in no particular order, for finding a therapist that works for you.

Take advantage of consultation sessions from multiple providers. First time clients often approach psychotherapy similarly to other healthcare professionals. They enter into therapy with the first available provider. Would you marry the first person that pops up on Tinder? Therapy impacts your deepest held beliefs and most significant relationships. Given the factors in effective psychotherapy, do not employ a laissez-faire approach when finding a mental healthcare professional. Many psychotherapists offer a complementary consultation session. You assess whether they match the services, style and method you need. In psychotherapy (and often in life as well), desired outcomes result from work, a little luck, and a person that gets you. Take time to find that person!

Consider education. Mental health is a level of psychological well-being. Mental health combines the absence of a mental disorder and an ability to enjoy life and creates balance between life activities. Mental health has reciprocal influences with almost every human activity. A person cannot simply type information into Google to become an educated in the human psyche. How do you know whether these issues are common or atypical?  The American Psychological Association accredits training programs to help the public identify adequate level of psychological training. For this reason, psychological training includes assessment and treatment of complicated mental health profiles using evidence-based strategies. To address such a wide-scope of possible problems, psychology licensure requires completing comprehensive training in fields such as cognitive and affective basis of behavior, social and cultural psychology, and physiology required to understand the processes central to a person’s health.   Similarly, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy accredited programs to ensure appropriately trained to treat the unique circumstances in marriages and families. Feel free to ask whether your therapist went to an APA or AAMFT accredited program.

Find someone striving for expertise. Education provides a framework of human behavior, but in psychotherapy, of limited utility without competent implementation. In supervision, the clinician learns how to integrate their knowledge into effective patient care through the careful eye of seasoned mental health professionals. Masters level clinicians such as many Marriage and Family therapists are required to have 3000 hours to practice independently. Psychologists complete at least 1500 supervised hours in doctoral level training. This requirement sets the baseline for training in the field. Those who strive for expertise seek additional training experiences such as postdoctoral fellowships to gain training in a specialty field area. Also, a psychologist with ABPP at the end of their name completed a board certification process. Board certified psychologists demonstrated sufficient competency in their areas as determined by their peers in a specialty. Other provides have grown their expertise through certifications in a modality of therapy or gain entire new degrees in fields like Psychoanalysis.  Ask potential therapists how they ensure their competency as a clinician.

Openness. Adaptability and openness to experience marks a well-adjusted person and characterize effective psychotherapists. Human experience varies widely. One-size-fits-all approaches to mental wellness cannot adequately account for the variability in human behavior. Ask how your psychotherapist approaches a problem and what happens when they get stuck. When inquiring the specifics of psychotherapist’s training, expertise, or education, do they become defensive or unwilling to respond? Or are they willing to entertain your curiosity.

Boundaries/Ethics. Ethical guidelines and laws bind licensed mental health professionals to promote fairness, justice, and keep everyone safe. These stipulations seek to preserve a beneficial relationship with you and your therapist. They prohibit therapists from entering into multiple roles with their clients. A friend or family member cannot psychotherapize you.  A psychotherapist cannot have any sexual encounter with you.  Therapy works when focusing on client needs.  The difficulty level of this goal skyrockets when the therapist tries to get their personal needs met. Ask your therapist questions concerning boundaries and ethics violations. Be safe!

Fit. More than all the other tips consider how it feels with this person. A strong alliance between the client and therapist undergirds successful work. Notice, you may not feel “good” all the time. However, if you constancy feel misheard or get a creepy vibe from a therapist, it’s time to look for a stronger connection.

Therapy provides an opportunity to examine and relate to yourself as you grow into a better human being. Let me know if you need help finding the right person!

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