HOW TO CHOOSE A COMPETENT THERAPIST
I received a disturbing email this week. It's one of many on the same theme which I have received over time, so I knew it was time to address this issue. Here's the story.
A young lady's boyfriend went to see a doctor for depression. She shared with me that the doctor apparently said he has "Level 8 Depression" and that he spends too much time with his girlfriend. The girlfriend states she sends him daily emails for support of his depression and they date on the weekends and that's it. She wanted to know my opinion.
I explained, first of all, that there is no such thing as "Level 8 Depression." And, secondly, I had entirely too little information to be making any
judgment about their relationship. If the information I received is accurate, shame on that doctor. No wonder so many are cynical about the therapy and psychiatry profession. Good golly!
Here's a great example of the kind of client I would want you to be. I will call him Sam. Sam and I haven't met yet, but he emailed me locally from here in Indianapolis where I practice and asked me to give him a call. I called him. He said he was interested in marriage counseling. We proceeded to talk for about 20 minutes. First we had the usual small talk to warm up the conversation, then he asked about my credentials and licensing. I explained that I am state licensed and nationally certified. Then he asked how much experience I had, which is 17 years. Later in the conversation he asked what made me an "expert" in marriage counseling, what model I use and what success couples were
experiencing through counseling with me.
These were absolutely excellent questions! You should never be afraid to ask vital questions like these. Sam apologized once or twice for asking so many questions. My response each time was that I was flattered to answer all his questions and I told him that I would do exactly the same thing were I him.
Would you go see a podiatrist for a heart condition or a veterinarian who fancied himself to be a pulmonary specialist? Of course not, but if you are not your own advocate and sleuth that may be just what happens when it comes to your mental health.
Finally, Sam asked what I thought about seeing a couple from a different cultural background. I told him that as long as they didn't mind teaching me cultural customs I may be ignorant of, that I would be fine. Then I asked him how that would be for them. By that time we had talked for nearly twenty minutes. We had established a rapport. He said, "Based on how our conversation has gone thus far, I believe you're the right fit for us."
The only sad part about this story is that is doesn't occur nearly enough. I wished more clients would call or email and interview me just like Sam did. Some therapists never even talk to clients before the first interview. Someone else may do the intake for them. If a therapist won't talk to you directly if you request it, take heed!
Besides the valuable information from both stories, I want to give you clear guidelines on how to proceed with receiving the right help from the right professional.
First, you cannot beat a personal referral. In fact, 95% of my referrals are word-of-mouth. I was interviewed on a radio talk show at the beginning of this year. From that one hour on the air, several clients have found their way to me. So, Keep your eyes and ears open for professionals who are headlined on the local news, radio and in the newspaper.
Many of my clients both online and off have referred to me as a "friend" at some point in our work together. I cannot think of a better compliment. However, though I am a good guy and a good therapist, you certainly would not want to ask me for help if you have bulimia (an eating disorder). Why? I don't have any expertise in this area. Make sense? So make sure that the person your going to consult with, online or off, has expertise in your area of need.
Certainly check that your potential helper is appropriately certified and/or licensed. Keep in mind that unless a psychiatrist has obtained training to provide psychotherapy, they DO NOT receive this as part of their medical training. As a rule of thumb, psychiatrists are trained in evaluation and medication.
So many of you are looking for professional consultation online today. There are several things to look for. There are beginning regulatory guidelines for those practicing on the net. My site Overcoming Depression is an information and resource site only. However, if you were looking at the site where I offer professional email consultation (CounselingPros.com) you would first note that there is a picture of me listed up top and right. Underneath that are my credentials and a link for you to verify them with the state of Indiana Health Profession's Bureau. Scroll down and you will see my toll-free number where you can actually call to see if I'm a real person ;-) Some professionals also choose to list their snail mail address. For privacy issues (junk mail mostly) I do not do this. For an exhaustive resource on securing the best online help I have written a book entitled, "The Online Counseling Consumer's Guide." It's on the CounselingPros.com site, it's an e-book and it's free. Help yourself.
Remember, the care you choose and receive is initially your responsibility. You deserve no less than the best. Go out and get it!
Veteran Psychotherapist, Trainer &
The blog is up and running. If you
haven't checked it out yet you can do so at the link
below. There is a new addition by Susan D.
She's on the ball. You'll definitely want to learn
from her experience. Please also take a moment and email
me a success moment in your fight against depression so I can
add it to the blog next.
Do you want to know how to have
a long and happy relationship? It's simpler than you may
think! It takes just 2-4 hours per week. Listen
up, this is proven!!
Do you part well
when leaving each other for the day?
How do you reunite
at the end of your day?
Have you shown appreciation
toward your partner this week?
Have you been affectionate
with your partner this week? No, not just sex! ;-)
Have you had special time
or a date this week?
Five simple ways for a happy,
lasting relationship. Geesh, just do it!
"I want to know how to break out of this bubble of nothing that I feel. I can
not get close to people. I will not let them but I feel so alone and isolated I have a front which I put on to hide the cracks. I need help to
open up. I'm also in the process of trying to stop taking drugs, a battle which I'm winning."
First of all, congratulations on fighting addiction. That's
I do love spinning off one success for success in another
area. What personal qualities are you using to battle drugs? What
types of behaviors and/or tools have you enlisted that work well for you?
What support systems have you accessed to be successful? That alone is
worth gold in your fight against "The Bubble." But here's
Begin with the end in mind.
Imagine you have already accomplished your
goal. What exactly have you accomplished?
What can you DO towards
accomplishing this goal?
What specifically do you
want and by when?
Now, using sensory words
describe specifically and precisely what you would see,
hear and feel. For example - "I want to smile,
warmly greet people with a handshake and use their
What are the
measurable steps, listed in a prioritized list, that
reflect the beginning and end of achieving this goal?
What resources will you
need in order to fulfill your desire?
How does this goal fit with
your values (what you hold in the highest regard)?
What measurable evidence
will convince you that you've reached your goal?
Time to get to work! Best
wishes to your continued success Simon!