Overview to Choosing the Right Therapist

Psychology is a strange profession that combines science with artistry.  While this is also true of other medical professions, the artistry and talent of the psychologist plays a large role in the effectiveness of the treatment.  Because of this, it is difficult to measure the skill of the psychological practitioner.  There are no concrete success rates or universal rating scales of talent from which to draw conclusions.  In the end, patients must rely on their own personal judgments of a practitioner’s knowledge and skill in a given domain.

What to Expect

Psychologists utilize many tools such as psychological tests, behavioral techniques, and monitoring equipment.  A patient may expect a wide range of approaches to a given problem.  Much of this is dependent on the practitioner, the patient, and the nature of the symptoms.  It is up to the patient to decide what approach and which therapist works best for them.

How to Begin

The first step to finding a therapist is getting a list of names.  Some sources of referrals include your physician, friends, and support groups.  An important thing to keep in mind is that psychologists have specialties, much like medical doctors.  Some psychologists only work with adults.  Some only perform testing.  For certain diagnoses, such as Autism or PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), it is important to obtain a psychologist who has specialized training or knowledge in that subject.

Screening calls

Make as many calls as possible to learn about different therapists.  You need to find out if the psychologist is a licensed clinical psychologist with sufficient training to serve your needs.  Let the therapist know the nature of the case.  Discuss the possible treatment approaches.  Think about what it would be like to have a session with this person.

Is this a quack?

Unfortunately, there are many unqualified people who call themselves therapists or even experts.  If you are looking for a psychologist, make sure you are dealing with someone who is licensed as a clinical psychologist in your state.  Once you have established that, you need to assess the psychologist’s skills.  A license and experience does not necessarily mean a good practitioner.  Take a good look at the practitioner.  Do you think they can handle the complexities of your situation?  Do they have past experience with that situation?  Do they appear to have talent and artistry in psychology as a whole?  Beware of those who promise a magic cure.  There is no such thing, and that is not what psychologists do.  Finally, follow your own feelings.  If you think that there may be something wrong here, you may be right.

When to shop around

It is best to shop around before starting therapy.  It is not a good idea to “sample” many therapists by going to multiple therapists over a short time frame.  Try to make your decision before you start therapy.  After the first month, reassess the therapist to make sure you are satisfied with your progression.

Setting up the first appointment

When you set up the appointment, make sure you show up at the scheduled time.  If you need to cancel, you should cancel well in advance (at least one day).  There may be a cancellation or no show fee without proper notification.

First session

Try not to make an immediate judgment based on one session.  Do not shop around while in therapy.  You will only gain from therapy if you use one therapist at a time for a given purpose.  It is valid to have multiple therapists for multiple purposes, such as one therapist for marital therapy and a different therapist for individual sessions.  Again, give it about a month trial period and then make a decision.  At this time, ask yourself if the therapy is getting anywhere and if you think it will progress satisfactorily.  If not, inform the therapist that you will be switching to another therapist.

Continued sessions

Continue to evaluate whether you think the treatment plan is progressing satisfactorily.  Remember that you play an important role in the success of the therapy.