4 Comments to
More on How to Find a Good Therapist: First Contact

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  1. Dr. Aletta,

    I want to thank you for your excellent points on choosing a psychotherapist. I would add another series of questions to ask:

    1. What type of approach to emotional healing do you use for your interventions (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, EMDR, NLP, Narrative therapy, Psychodynamic, Solution Focused, etc.)?

    2. How long do you take to treat patients (for example depression, sexual abuse, etc.)? This will show how effective the therapist is. My view is that the longer it takes to help a patient heal the less competent or able the therapist is and therefore the more expensive the treatment will be.

    I often speak with other clinicians and am amazed at how long and the many sessions they take to treat issues that can be treated sometimes in one or several sessions. I believe this is due to the trauma treatment model a therapist has. If it is an effective and powerful one then that therapist will see great healing often and efficiently in his/her patients.

    Again, you did a wonderful job in sharing with us those important steps to finding a good therapist.

    Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D.

  2. Dear Dr, Lopez de Victoria,

    Thank you for these additions to the interview script! Especially #1 (it’s a bit embarrassing I forgot it). These days people have a good idea what modality of therapy they are looking for; I often get asked if I “do” CBT or DBT.

    Regarding #2: What works well for me is to ask the potential patient (after the first meeting) to commit to four to six sessions after which we re-assess and either terminate because the initial goals have been met or continue with a clear treatment plan. Sometimes after the first series of sessions the initial goals are achieved but underlying ones appear that the patient wishes to address and will take longer.

  3. These are excellent tips, Dr. Aletta.
    You are right–a combination of (mostly)facts and gut instinct are important, and it is also important to stress the evaluation aspect of the phone interview, but prospective patients and family members often feel vulnerable, stressed, and the evaluation process can be very challenging. They may very well feel more comfortable turning over at least some responsibility to a therapist, whether or not that therapist is the best choice for them. That’s why in my book Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On (Without Wasting Time or Money), I wrote several detailed chapters on how to evaluate a current or prospective therapist and I also devote an entire chapter to the Phone Interview process called: Don’t Hire a Therapist…Until You Make This Phone Call. Included is a a Phone Interview worksheet and evaluation tool for use by patients and/or members of their family or support network. Also, I blog about the therapy experience and process in my PsychCentral blog, Therapy Soup.

  4. Dear Richard,

    Congratulations on your Therapy Soup blog and welcome to PsychCentral! I’m glad you suggested your book and the phone interview worksheet provided to further support people looking for help. Information is power! And the more the better, especially, as you say, we feel particularly vulnerable.

    For those who wish to learn more you can find Therapy Revolution at http://bit.ly/aHfo8V.

  5. In re #4: “How Soon Can You See Me?”

    Every therapist on this board will attest to the fact that cancellations are a fact of life. Sometimes they come well in advance, sometimes they come the night before, sometimes they come on an hour’s notice.

    I would urge anyone who wants to see a particular therapist, but is told that they have no time, to say the following:

    “I understand you are busy. I am glad you are busy. Who wants to see an unpopular therapist? That said, if you get a cancellation — and you will get a cancellation — please put me at the top of your list to fill in. I can come in on an [fill in the blank] hour’s, two-hours, five hours, days, etc. notice. Thank you.”

    Last tip:

    If you have a particular issue, for goodness sake go to some with a ton of experience and hopefully certification in that arena. If it’s a sex question, see someone certified by quad S or AASECT. If it’s a couples issue, see someone who does almost exclusively couples work and is trained in family systems, or at least is certified by the AAMFT. If it’s a chronic illness question, don’t see someone who has worked with just one or two patients with cancer or somesuch. See someone with a big background in health psychology.

    Just about every therapist you ask, “Have you worked with XYZ,” will say “yes.” Because they probably have, at some point in their academic/certification/practice career. You don’t just want someone who has worked with XYZ. You want someone who’s passionate about it and expert on it. ‘Nuff said.

    For an interesting article on the pitfalls of marital therapy with people who “do” it but who don’t specialize in it, see HOW THERAPY CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR MARITAL HELP, by Dr. William Doherty.


    I don’t vouch for Doherty’s particular approach to couples work, but many of the points he makes in the above article are valid.

  6. Just one more first-contact question to pose.

    All potential clients oughta ask this, very early in on the first interview. There may be nothing more important structurally and practically in your therapy experience:

    “If for some practical reason I can’t make it to your office, can we work by telephone or by Skype? If I have to relocate or work out of town, can we continue our sessions by phone or by Skype?”

    Different therapists feel different about non-office sessions. Some are fine with it. Some won’t do it on general principle, believing that only the face-to-face of the office can be most effective.

    Whatever the therapist’s take on the issue, the fact is that we don’t live in Freud’s Vienna anymore. Everyone has to deal with things like traffic, childcare, work emergencies, travel, sick relatives in other cities and states, etc. Getting to a session or sessions may close to impossible.

    You will want to know whether your therapist is comfortable with tech-assisted work before you get to work with him or her.



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