Going through a divorce? New Parents? Major Life Transition? Just Not Yourself? These are just a few of the hundreds of reasons people see out a therapist. This article provides the basics of psychotherapy; information helpful to everyone regardless of why you are going to therapy, benefits of therapy and most importantly how to navigate the process of finding the best therapist.
Do I need therapy? Everyone can benefit from quality therapy with the right therapist. Many people say “I have friends; they are my therapists”. No, they are not. They are your friends. Friends see you through a filter; they know what you tell and show them. “But I tell my close friends everything” you may say. I doubt it! Furthermore, your friends are not trained in how to ask you questions that will make you think “outside the box”. If you have a friend that is a therapist, he or she cannot (or should not) be asking you these questions in this therapeutic manner because they are then having a dual relationship and can lose their license. Pretty clear, yes?
How Can Therapy Help? Therapy can improve your life in ways you never thought possible; from your relationships, career, parenting to overall health. We know you cannot separate the mind and body. It certainly cannot hurt to see a therapist to address those nagging areas of your life that may be negatively impacting your physical health in ways never imagined. You do not have to be crazy to see or need a therapist. Crazy is when those around you see that you have a problem and you think everything is hunky dory. It takes courage to see a therapist but it doesn’t have to be a scary experience.
What kind of mental health provider am I looking for? There are psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, and clinical social workers. All offer therapy and are considered therapists. The distinctions are as follows: Psychiatrists and psychologists are more expensive for therapy. Psychiatrists specialize in medication management. They are the only mental health providers who prescribe medication and are physicians who completed additional training in psychiatry. Many do not perform therapy simply due to the need for their medication management services. Psychologists have a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. Their designation is either Ph.D. or Psy.D. The difference is that those with a Psy.D. have completed a program that is strictly clinical whereas those with a Ph.D. have completed programs that include or are strictly research methodologies. Those who offer therapy services are trained in therapy however often see people with much more severe mental illness. Many will see clients who are not as ill, but you’ll have to do your research.
LCPCs and LCSWs both provide psychotherapy however their training differs. LCPCs are Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors who have earned their designation through education and time spent doing psychotherapy under the supervision of a Psychologist. They are able to perform psychotherapy independently and their training has focused exclusively on that area of expertise. A Licensed Clinical Social Worker is also able to perform psychotherapy however, their training also includes social work; referring and management of cases that require referrals to community resources. Depending upon the therapist, you will find this category much more dependent upon your comfort level with the therapist.
How do I choose a therapist? Research unequivocally confirms that the relationship between therapist and client is the number one factor in successful therapy. Interview therapists; many will offer complimentary, brief phone consults for you to get a sense of who they are and if you feel you will “click”.people become overwhelmed when attempting to choose a therapist. It is not uncommon for an individual or couple to decide to consider therapy and it take 6-12 months before they pick up the phone. Remember the longer you wait, the greater the problem(s) will become. If using insurance (see next section), obtain a minimum of three names and call these therapists. You can tell the insurance company any particular “filters” you would like, such as a female, located within 10 miles of 60602 that specializes in adult transitions. They should be able to give you names and phone numbers of therapists meeting that criteria (or most of them). Check Psychology Today, Good Therapy.org, as well as simply Googling the person’s name. If possible, speak to the therapist on the phone to get an idea of how they approach therapy.
A Word About Insurance and EAPs. Insurance helps pay for a good part of therapy. The problem is that utilizing insurance does compromise your confidentiality to some degree (often depending upon the insurance company). Your therapist must give you a diagnosis that will be covered. In the past, I personally gave the most benign diagnosis with as little information as possible. Today I stay away from insurance companies that ask for too much information because I personally feel this compromises the therapeutic relationship and outcome. A recent British study showed that people who attended therapy actually earned more money a year later. Therefore, paying out of pocket can be seen as an investment in your future that insures the highest level of confidentiality.
Other Considerations. There are many factors to consider when choosing a therapist and being in your insurance network is not the first or even second question to consider when seeking the s]best therapist for you. The amount of experience the therapist has. Most therapists that are highly experienced accept some (if any) insurance because they do not need to in order to obtain clients. Furthermore, ask the therapist what areas she or he specializes in. If they say “adults” that is not good enough. No therapist can be an expert in every issue adults encounter. EAPs are Employee Assistance Programs. These are offered at no cost by your employer and often are limited to 3-5 sessions. These require the therapist to disclose the most information to the EAP company, not your employer. However, personally I would not want any information I shared with a therapist to become part of a database which is what occurs. If you want superior quality of service with the utmost confidentiality, look for a therapist with extensive experience in the area you are finding yourself facing challenges, see if they offer complimentary “get to know you phone sessions” and discuss their fee.
A final word Therapy should be goal-oriented and feel like a safe, non-judgmental place where you can explore anything. If it turns out to be anything other than this, change therapists. You are the consumer and this is a long-term commitment financially and in terms of your time. Choosing a therapist is not something to take lightly. Not every therapist is right for every person.
Content provided by Women Belong member Dana Steiner