Finding a Therapist For You! Part 2

by Brian Moynihan Monday, May 12, 2014

Choosing a therapist can be daunting and there is no one-size-fits-all answer.  In part 1 we talked about important factors and how to contact therapists to ask to talk either by phone or in person to determine “fit”. This week we “talk” about the interview process and what to ask the therapist.

In interviewing a therapist, pay attention not only to the content of the conversation, what they tell you about themselves and their approach to therapy, but also to how they interact with you.  Do they take time to ask you for your ideas, theories, opinions?  Do they listen and understand you?  Does the interaction feel comfortable, respectful, caring?  Consider what factors are important to you in your decision, and ask questions. 

You may want to know more about the therapists’ education and training, background and experience, or their ideas about how to approach specific problems or issues.  You may also have questions of a more personal nature about the therapist – a prospective therapist's age, whether the therapist has personal and life experiences with similar problems, is married, or has children. You might wonder if it is OK to ask these questions?  Ethical codes and rules guide therapists around when self-disclosure of personal information is appropriate and can vary depending on a therapist's clinical orientation and philosophy. It is the therapist's job, however, to set these boundaries, so you should feel free to ask and they will tell you if they cannot answer! 

Once again, even if the therapist cannot give you specific information, the way they respond will help you get a feel for their style and whether they might be a good fit.  If, through this process, you get the sense this is not a good fit or not right for you, thank them for their time, move on, and remind yourself this was time well spent, saving you from moving forward with a therapist that wouldn't have been right.

In the end, if despite your efforts, you find yourself in therapy that is not a good match, or you do not feel heard or understood, take action sooner rather than later.  While it is difficult to give feedback, particularly negative feedback, most therapists are in the profession to help, and without feedback cannot change how they work with you, or help you find a better fit therapist.  This process may be beneficial in itself – some research shows better therapy outcomes when there is a minor problem or rupture in the therapy relationship that is repaired than when there are no ruptures at all!  In the end however, if you are not getting your needs met, or do not find your therapist responsive to your concerns, it is important to recognize that and find a different therapist to meet your needs.

Brian Moynihan, LCPC, is a therapist working with teens and adults in Bangor, Maine.  For more information and resources, go to http://BrianMoynihanLCPC.weebly.com.

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Finding a Therapist For You!

by Brian Moynihan Thursday, April 24, 2014

Choosing a therapist can be daunting. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.  You are likely already searching the web for ideas and recommendations.  Many therapists have websites, business pages, and other online resources where you can learn basic information about their experience, skills, and approach to therapy.  You may also have sought recommendations from family and friends, your family doctor, clergy, or others whose opinion you trust, and perhaps you have developed a list of therapists to consider.  How then do you take the next step to determine which therapist is your best choice?

Many factors may influence your decision and experience in therapy including the therapist's theoretical orientation/approach; education and training; experience, or lack of, with your particular issues; as well as factors such as therapist age and gender; and practicalities such as location and insurances accepted.  Ultimately most important is whether:

  • the therapist and their approach is the right fit for you and the issues you hope to address;
  • your ability to establish a collaborative, trusting relationship with a particular therapist, and
  • whether you and your therapist share an understanding of how change happens in your life and the role therapy will play in that process. 

How then do you evaluate this goodness of fit with a therapist?  You may already have a sense of this from your initial information gathering – does this therapist sound like someone I'd be comfortable opening up to?  Do their ideas seem to fit my own experiences and beliefs? 

Your next step, to contact a prospective therapist, is the most daunting and anxiety provoking for many of us, yet this is just another step in the information gathering process.  Tell the therapist in a voice mail or email, or in person if you reach them the first time, that you are looking for a therapist and how you found them, either by a personal referral or on HelpPRO or another therapist finder, and that you would like to speak to them or possibly have a brief meeting to learn more about their approach and whether there might be a fit. 

You may wish to “interview” several therapists by phone or via a free in office consultation or “meet and greet”.  Some therapists offer and welcome free consultations while others do not, but you should always feel free to ask. Even if the therapist you call does not offer a free consultation, you can likely get a sense of the therapists's personality and communication style in their response.  If the therapist has a receptionist who handles their calls or schedules appointments, see if you can arrange a time to speak with the therapist directly.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week for more about the interview process.

Brian Moynihan, LCPC, is a therapist working with teens and adults in Bangor, Maine.  For more information and resources, go to http://BrianMoynihanLCPC.weebly.com.

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