How to Choose Your Therapist and/or Health Professional

The Process: Picking a therapist or health professionals is a human process, a process of communication, interaction andgoodness of fit between therapist, health professionals and client. Before you commit emotional resources, time and money to a particular therapist or health professional, you will want to know As well as you can that you will feel comfortable, safe, confident and willing to persist in the often difficult task ahead. We often hear of people who persist with a therapist or healer they are uncomfortable with simply because they were told that, that person has some special knowledge. A therapist and/or health professionals is actually an ally who will assist you in your very personal pursuit of understanding, change (and personal growth if you are looking for a therapist).

actualize1While you will want to make sure that your healer is competent to deal with the concerns you bring to see them, you will also want sure that the two of you are a good fit. There is a vast world of information regarding psychotherapeutic and health professions practice. New information is constantly evolving. Your therapist and/or health professional should be passionately interested in his or her field of practice and should pursue study, training and educational opportunities beyond the basic graduate degree or certification, whatever that is.

Where to Look for a Therapist or Health Professional: If you are starting out cold, and don’t have strong recommendations from someone you trust, it is often helpful to use a resource that offers a picture and a little information about the healer. Directories and web sites, such as this one, offer this. If you wish to make sure a potential therapist or health professional has no ethics complaints against him or her, you can check online or by phone with the State Grievance Board for that area of expertise. Psychotherapists cannot publish recommendations from actual persons or direct you to someone who has worked with them in the past because of the personal and confidential nature of therapy. Perhaps the best resource is a friend who will recommend someone they have worked with. Even so, this will be your therapist, or health professional not theirs. It necessarily has to be your feeling and perspective that help you to decide. Picking the right person for you will require a little work and courage.

Making Contact: Once you are aware of several therapists or health professional who might work well with you, call and see you can meet or speak to them on the phone. If it a health professionals, most likely you will have to go in and see them. If it is a therapist you can often speak to them on the phone. You can learn a lot from the warmth of a person’s voice and a generous attitude in sharing information, even information about other therapists he or she knows who might work well with you on your particular issue. Not every health professional is perfect for every client. Your potential therapist or health professional should spend some time helping you understand his or her modality and style, and he or she should want to know a little about what you need to accomplish. If you feel good about the contact, you could ask if that person offers a free initial meeting. Not a grudging ten minute hello, but a free first session. It takes that to know if this is a good working relationship. Not just for you, but for the healer as well. Then be sure to go to the session and be on time. Not all therapists or health professional agree with our perspective. Some feel that an initial full fee session is the proper setting for all questions and answers.

Colorado Association of PsychotherapistsThe Initial Interview: What does the therapist or health professional do? Your ideal healer would spend some time orienting you and making you comfortable. He or she would quickly handle any paperwork that is necessary, such as the mandatory state disclosure form. Then he or she would be interested in knowing what you want to accomplish, what is bothering you, or how you think you could use some help and in what areas. He or she would give you a chance to ask questions. If you are going to continue seeing this healer, you should feel that you can ask your healer any question at all about skills, training, insights, methods of working and so on. You will also want to be clear about fees and insurance filing if you plan to use insurance. Though there is no necessary correlation between fees and competence, healers who have been in the field longer and worked more successfully with clients for a longer period of time tend to charge higher fees. Sometimes healers have a limited number of sliding fee scale slots available for clients who cannot afford their full fees. You should feel free to ask about this if you have the need.

Kinds of Therapists and Health Professionals, Education and Training: You may want to know what kind of education, training and license your healer has. In Colorado, there are a number of licensed psychotherapists and health professionals. For psychotherapist you have: licensed psychologists (Ph.D. or Psy.D), licensed professional counselors (LPC), licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) or licensed social workers (LSW), licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT), and psychiatrists (M.D.). People with doctorates (Ph.D.’s or Psy.D.’s) sometimes have other licenses. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who have done their residencies in mental hospitals. They often have other training and may do psychotherapy as well as prescribe medication. Sometimes psychiatrists work together with other mental health professionals if medication, such as antidepressants, seems to be a good idea. For Health Professionals ask them if they are licensed, type of education, and experience.

Spacious PresenceAlso know that unlicensed psychotherapists may also practice in Colorado by registering with the State Grievance Board. They may also be therapists with other kinds of training who will never receive licenses, or they may be therapists with advanced degrees who choose not to be licensed. Your therapist is required by the State Board to give you a “Disclosure Statement” to sign. This includes a description of the practitioners education and professional training. Please feel free to discuss this with your practitioner if you have questions. Health Professionals differ in the requirements of being licensed, or unlicensed. So it is best to ask. The type of education or advanced degree does not necessarily determine whether a therapist or health professional will be a good fit for you. Often post-graduate school or post-medical school training and years of experience play an important role. For example, if you are looking for a marriage counselor, you might want to find a therapist with training and experience in this area. Look for not only academic credentials, but for in-depth training and years of experience. Training beyond graduate school in a particular methodology or methodologies, often helps a healer be more grounded in the healing process. Experience is also important. Though some people are born therapists and/or healers, years of experience working with clients does help. On the other hand, new healers sometimes have an enthusiasm for their work and knowledge of the latest techniques and approaches which make them good bets as well.

Managed Care and Provider Lists: You may want to consider whether you want to choose a healer from your insurance provider list. This may be the least expensive route to finding a Healer. However, some managed care healers have huge case loads and/or limits on the number of sessions they can provide. You will want to check this out ahead of time with your provider. Even if the number of sessions is liberal, there is also the matter of whether or not you want your health diagnosis on record and whether this person is the best healer for you. Checking out the healer’s information on one of the sources mentioned above might be a good idea. If you decide to go outside your insurance provider list. The advantage to you would be that you can choose from a wider list of healers and perhaps work for a longer number of sessions.

Good Luck! Therapy and any healing work can be a life changing experience. Choosing a therapist and/or health professional who is a good fit for you and the issues you want to work with can be an important first step in that process.

By Betty Cannon, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist
Betty Cannon Ph. D has practiced psychotherapy in Boulder for 30+ yrs.

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