Many people, at some point in their lives, realize that talk therapy is something they can use to improve their happiness. That is because “The benefits of therapy are vast, including having an objective perspective on happenings in your life, a sounding board for you to talk through options before taking action, a place where you can deepen self-awareness, access resources to support your growth and personal development, and much more,” says Robin D. Stone, LMHC. In some cases, this may be because they have realized that the way they’ve been continuing leads to a bad destination, such as when they are suffering from addiction or depression. Actual mental disorders are not the only reason to seek out a therapist, though. A lot of people simply feel that they need to gain a better perspective on where they are, or find a way to get out of a mental rut. A therapist near me works almost exclusively at advising teenagers about their career choices. In some cases, a parent or spouse might want to consult a mental health professional in order to better understand a family member. There are literally dozens of reasons other than having a psychological illness to seek out a therapist and it helps to read articles about this.
Once this decision has been taken, the next step is to actually choose a particular counselor. This choice is a little more important than deciding on a new pair of socks and should be approached judiciously.
Relying on Referrals
Strange as it may seem, although the academic and professional requirements for licensed therapists are similar to those that apply to attorneys and medical doctors, their actual competency varies quite dramatically. In fact, there are some frankly bad therapists out there.
One way to (at the very least) weed out the less proficient ones is to ask friends and family if they know of a good counselor, even if this is at second hand. Primary care physicians are also happy to provide referrals and usually know something about psychology themselves. Many mental health issues, such as insomnia and clinical depression, are often associated with physical problems, so it is not the worst idea in the world to see a medical doctor even before a therapist.
There is an unfortunate caveat to this. In the United States and most other countries, laws, as well as professional ethics, prohibit any health care provider from being paid directly for such referrals. Medicine is a business like any other, though, and most doctors rely on referrals to attract new patients. Even without a financial incentive, one doctor may choose which therapist to refer a patient to based on nothing more than a personal relationship, while the occasional case of paid referral arrangements does actually crop up.
Searching Near Home
If someone happens to live in a large city, he will have hundreds if not thousands of licensed therapists to choose from. In more rural areas, his options will be more limited, but there should still be a number of possible choices within reasonable traveling distance. A longish commute once or twice a week is certainly preferable to seeing a counselor who does not meet a patient’s needs as fully as possible. A look through the Yellow Pages or an internet search will quickly produce a list, but how can you select the best one?
Firstly, any flashy ads should be taken with a large grain of salt, as are those that claim to be experts in a huge number of different areas. All therapists are required to study numerous elements of psychology as part of their coursework and practical training, but almost all choose to specialize in some aspect based on their personal interests and aptitude. A patient with a very specific concern (PTSD, issues regarding gender, relationship problems, etc.) would likely look for a counselor who has focused nearly all of their professional development in that direction.
Although health insurance plans are required to cover mental well-being to some extent, for most people the cost of therapy will indeed be a concern, especially since a course of talk therapy may run over several months. One option is to find a clinic where counselors who have already graduated but are undergoing their supervised practical training see patients at little to no cost.
Choosing Online Counseling
“Therapy offers you a safe place where you can say anything without being judged or criticized. Over time, people usually feel better and see their lives improving.” That is according to Dave Kaplowitz, LMFT, CGP. For a number of years now, professional and volunteer counselors have been offering their services over the internet, either via a Skype-like interface or through text messages. Research on the effectiveness of online therapy shows that it is comparable to face to face sessions, while it also offers the advantages of improved convenience, lower cost, access to a wide range of specialists on a single platform and more.
Only the individual in question can decide whether the online therapy route is suitable for him or her. Some feel more comfortable talking to a “real” person, while anonymity is important to others.
However a given therapist is selected, the choice is never irreversible. The first counseling session should be seen not as a treatment but as a kind of mutual interview. Some medical specialists need care only about measurable quantities such as blood pressure and white cell counts. This is certainly not the case with talk therapy.
“Therapists can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from therapy depend on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn,” says Chris Corbett, PsyD.
No matter how skilled a therapist is, it sometimes happens that they and their patients just don’t “click”. This is neither one’s fault. It may just be that a particular patient simply feels more comfortable talking to a woman than a man, or someone from the same cultural background. Therapists can, and indeed do, “fire” a patient if they believe that a different counselor can do a better job. Selecting a therapist is therefore often a kind of iterative process, and going through a few or even several is sometimes required for best results.