Choosing a Therapist

Young man speaking with a therapist

Choosing a psychotherapist is an important process.  For those wishing or needing to use health insurance, options are often limited due to coverage restrictions.  When this is the case, choosing a therapist from a list can be daunting.  Here are some things to think about when you are choosing a therapist.

1.Licensure.  Licenses are granted by the State of Georgia with the intent of protecting the public from unqualified healthcare providers.  There are many qualified “coaches” or “therapists” that do not possess a license and it is fine to consult with these professionals.  However, these people cannot call themselves counselors or psychologists.  The term, psychologist” is reserved for individuals possessing a doctoral degree in psychology who have also passed a written and oral examination in order to be licensed as a psychologist.  If you seek insurance reimbursement for your visits, you would need to see a licensed provider.  I am a licensed psychologist.  Insurance reimbursement will depend on the specifics of your insurance policy.

2.Theoretical Orientation.  You may want to ask your prospective therapist about their approach to dealing with the issues that concern you.  Some people are looking for a therapist who is trained in “Imago Therapy,” “CBT,” or “relational/dynamic therapy, “ for example.  Some people may not want to talk about their past and may want a present-day behavioral approach.  Conversely, some people know deep down inside that they do need to discus things that have happened to them in the past in order to move on to the present and future.  It is fine to ask if your therapist has experience dealing with the issues that concern you and what their approach or orientation is—especially if you believe your concern is unusual or for some reason, would require specific education and training.

3.Experience.  Experience is probably the best teacher and there is wisdom is seeking an experienced psychotherapist.  Younger providers may be less expensive and may aggressively market their practices in ways that claim great results.  It is fine to choose a therapist who is recently licensed.  Depending on your specific needs, a more experienced provider may be well worth your investment.

4.“Fit.”  It is very important that there is a good ‘fit’ with you and your therapist.  Some people seek counseling only from someone of the same gender, race or spiritual orientation, etc.  Be sure to choose someone that you feel good about.  Ask questions you need to ask when you speak on the phone.  After you meet for the first time, respect your feelings about whether to schedule another appointment or continue interviewing other therapists.  Remember, you are hiring this professional to help you.

5.Recommendation  Probably the best way to start your search is to ask people you know and trust for a referral.  If you are restricted due to insurance panels, you may want to review a list of approved providers with a friend or relative.  Sometimes, seeing the therapist your friend sees is fine.  Sometimes, it is not a good idea.  Talk with your friend and/or the therapist about this if it comes up.