The best place to start when trying to find a psychotherapist involves asking friends and family for a recommendation. The best therapists often don’t have to advertise and may not be part of any insurance plans. All of their clients may come from recommendations from satisfied clients. If privacy is a factor, use discretion about whom to ask.
People seeking a therapist can also ask their pastor, medical doctor, nutritionist, chiropractor or hospital personnel for a referral. Organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and community non-profit agencies can also be good referral sources.
Keep in mind though, that a good rapport between therapist and client is one of the most important factors in effective therapy. Even the “best” therapist in town may not click with every person and no one can predict what the chemistry will be between two people. People should not feel obligated to work with a therapist if they feel their personalities are not compatible.
Using insurance plans, telephone books, online directories and newspaper ads are not the best ways to find a therapist. Insurance companies do not screen their providers beyond insuring that they are licensed. There really is no substitute for a personal referral.
But if people must use their insurance companies or paid advertisements, it is still possible to find a wonderfully skilled and caring clinician. The person seeking therapy should read the descriptions, advertisements, or websites put out by the therapists and call the ones who deal with the types of problems the person has. Contact several different therapists and choose the one who seems easiest to talk to. Know what to look for when telephoning a potential therapist.
Many towns have family service agencies that accept insurance or charge based on a person’s ability to pay. Staff at these agencies tend to be underpaid. Therefore these agencies attract practitioners who may have little experience as well as student interns, whose time at the agency may be temporary.
Even if the therapist has not been practicing for very long the therapy can be effective. If the relationship between therapist and client is very good and the therapist is dedicated to improving his or her skill, the therapy can be highly effective. Therapy, regardless of the setting, is likely to be most effective when the therapist regularly asks for feedback about the therapy from the client.
Agencies also attract experienced, highly skilled, dedicated practitioners who are just not in it for the money. Some agencies offer free counseling in certain circumstances.
It is good to know how long the therapist has been at the agency. The therapist will tell the client if he or she is an intern, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Never be afraid to ask questions. Therapists should answer all questions about their credentials non-defensively.
Some organizations with the word “Institute” in their title, such as, The Psychoanalytic Institute, are organizations where practitioners receive training in a certain type of therapy. Such practitioners are usually very dedicated to achieving good results with clients, and are a good place to seek therapy and referrals.
All therapists, whether they are psychologists, social workers or counselors, should be able to provide clients with their license number and the name of their profession. These licenses are regulated by the states.
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