What kind of therapist do I choose?

Sometimes this depends on the reason you want to go to a therapist, while other times this only amounts to a personal preference. More important though than the type of therapist is the amount of training and experience with patients, (but one psych prof cited a study that showed that the "best" therapists are the ones who are just beginning, and older therapists–middle ones were "worse") who is compatible with your problems and personality and who you don't feel uncomfortable with. Basically you need to feel as if you trust the therapist, and knowing that he or she knows their stuff or is compatible with you will help this trust. Unfortunately, degrees aren't the best indicator of this trust factor. Sometimes certain MFCC's are better than Psy.D's, etc. Here is the run-down of the degrees in case it matters to you:

  • MFCC–Master's in Family and Child Counseling. Takes 2 years, with usually one year of supervised counseling experience in school. Less academic or virtually no research experience. Heavy emphasis on counseling, but are qualified to do personal psychotherapy. The majority of what is out there.
  • MSW–Master's in Social Work. Takes 2 years, with usually a year of supervised counseling experience while in school. Also less academic or virtually no research, however they are different because they are taught to view the individual in the context of their environment. Thus they like to visit your home (e.g. The Social Worker), and often emphasize family or community dynamics in treatment.
  • Psy.D.-Psychology Professional Degree. Takes 4-6 years and usually entails 2000 hours of supervised therapy experience. Also, they are usually required to undergo personal psychology. Less academic/research oriented and are usually solely trained in practicing therapy.
  • Ph.D.–Psychology Ph.D. Takes 4-6 years and usually entails 2000 hours, etc like the Psy.D. but it is heavily emphasizing research and academics. There are less and less Ph.D.s who do therapy now days, but they are the group who have been doing therapy the longest.

Also, psychologists can be broken down by their emphasis, such as cognitive-behavioral, psycho-analytic, Rogerian, etc. However, often most therapist are eclectic, meaning they use the techniques that work best/are most appropriate for different disorders or with different types of people. This is not really of much concern to the prospective therapist client, but if you are _really_ interested you can check out some books on types of therapies. However, I think the trust issue is much more important and can be more readily accessed than their type of therapy.

How do I pay for this therapist?

A therapist can cost up to $150 dollars an hour so this is a big factor for most people. If you have insurance you should check and see if it covers therapy at all and what the limitations are. Limits sometimes include amount of times you can go to the therapist, the reasons you can go, co-payments, or what therapist they will pay for. Sometimes it is better to forget insurance and pay it alone. In that case you have more choice, and it doesn't have to be expensive–go to a "sliding-scale" therapist or clinic, who will determine how much you can afford. They are very reasonable, and depending on your financial situation can discount it to as low as 35 dollars a session. I suggest people do this anyway because studies have shown that people do better in therapy when they view it as an investment; you will be a lot less likely to skip a session or not do something a therapist asks you if you have to pay even a little bit. And you will be more active in getting your therapist to do what you need, so that you get your "money's worth."

Where do I find a psychologist or therapist?

Psych Central has its very own therapist directory you can use to quickly find a qualified therapist in your local community.

They are listed in the yellow pages like other businesses (I found one of my therapists that way) but my first suggestions are:

  • Go by references!!!! Talk to your friends who have been in therapy and ask them for a reference. They know you and your personality and could possibly suggest or ask their therapist who could suggest a good match.
  • Psychology professors are usually friends with or actually are clinical psychologists…they can be good references in finding a psychologist also.
  • Read psychology self-help books and when you find a therapist you think is interesting, write to them or call them and ask if they could suggest someone in the area.
  • Sometimes your insurance company, even if you decide not to go with them for paying the therapist, can give you lists of therapists in the area.
  • Colleges or even your workplace may have "in-house" psychologists–even if you choose not to go with them they can be good references.