SAN FRANCISCO, January 8, 2011–More and more people are seeking out professional help to parse through the emotions and stress that come with everyday life. The once quiet act of going to therapy has now become a social norm openly discussed and shared. I know in my own life friends share stories about trips to the therapist the same way they talk about a bad date. As the second most popular major among college students, psychology is a mainstay in our society.
But with all those students becoming psychology majors, and with the amount of therapist in your city alone, how do you even begin to choose? Here are just a couple of tips to be aware of on your search.
How do I find a therapist in the first place?
Well a great place to start is referrals. If you have a good relationship with your general practitioner ask them if they could possibly make a referral to a therapist in town. Your GP already knows what your insurance/fiscal situation is and how you operate so this could be the most prudent way for you to find someone. If that isn’t necessarily an option, thank goodness for the internet. Try focusing on factors outside of the letters behind a particular therapist’s name. Although it is important that your therapist has the proper training/licensing, it is just as important that they have dealt in problems that you are experiencing, come highly referred and are equipped to deal with your issues. For example you wouldn’t want to waste time researching/contacting a therapist who specializes in family or child psychology when you need one-on-one counseling about your depression.
Ask the right questions.
It’s unfortunate that mental health benefits are not revered as highly as personal physical health. Because of this there are a lot of people who don’t have mental health insurance, or whose insurance only covers a fraction of the cost.
- First figure out what your insurance does cover and go for the therapist within that spectrum that deals in your condition or has the experience you are seeking.
- If you don’t have any mental health insurance ask about fees. The last thing you want to do is put yourself in any sort of debt trying to solve your emotional problems. This will only add to them! Be realistic about what you can afford and if it is going to put a strain on your finances later.
- If you are lacking insurance and don’t have the ability to pay out of pocket, clinical social workers are available for your use. Clinical social workers may have a little less training or experience than a therapist, but studies have not indicated a real difference between patient progress between going to a therapist or a clinical social worker.
Price does not always equal progress.
A couple of years while looking for a therapist my friend spent 2 months on a waiting list for a therapist that was considered to be the “best” in San Francisco. During that time the problems she was experiencing with anxiety and stress only swelled because 1) she wasn’t getting the help she needed and 2) the experience of waiting to be seen was adding even more grief to her life. The problem was she was so hung up on the therapist that she wasn’t focusing on the experience. Not even to mention that this particular woman charged $500 dollars a session- not covered by insurance. Long story short when my friend finally went in for her appointment she found that her and this particular therapist didn’t get along very well. This sent her back on the search for someone new having lost 2 months of what could have been healing.
Focus on the relationship.
What is more important is to focus on the relationship that you and your therapist build together. You should feel comfortable, accepted and open in your sessions. Studies have shown that it is this relationship that jumpstarts the healing process- not whether or not your therapist graduated from Duke.
All in all don’t be afraid to ask questions!
It is important that you learn to take control of your mental health and decide what it is you are looking for. Make sure that the decisions you make are going to help you more than they are going to hurt you. I.E. don’t spend a fortune you don’t have, don’t waste time on someone who is overbooked and unavailable, and keep the most important thing your own interest and comfort. This is the only way to successful start to heal.
Danae Matthews writes for an on-line women’s health resource, Women’s Health Base.
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