How to Find a Therapist
Whether an adult or child needs therapy, finding the right therapist takes research, patience, and intuition.
Counselors can help a wide range of problems, including depression,
addiction and substance abuse, suicidal impulses, stress management,
self-esteem issues, issues of aging, emotional health, and family, parenting,
and marital or other relationship problems. They often work closely with other
mental health specialists.
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Sorting It Out
When you start your search, keep an open mind. A therapist
does not need decades of experience -- or a sheepskin from an ivy-league
school -- to be helpful, says Turner.
"It used to be that a psychiatrist was considered
most qualified because he or she had more education," Turner tells WebMD.
"But that's not true anymore. Some psychiatrists got their licenses 25
years ago and haven't kept up. Many psychiatrists who are trained today just
handle medications. You can have a primary care doctor do that -- it's not like
psychiatrists are indispensable!"
Turner refers patients to professional counselors and social
workers when appropriate. They often specialize in counseling couples and
families and coordinating group therapy sessions, he says. "Some are good,
some aren't. Some are excellent."
"Credentials aren't everything," says Robert Baker,
PhD, a psychologist and program director of the behavioral medicine unit at the
Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans. "Even people with great credentials aren't
necessarily great therapists. They may be smart, but that doesn't mean they
have good common sense."
Where to Start?
Collect Names. "Don't start with three names
from your managed care company," advises Avrum Geurin Weiss, PhD, author of
the book, Experiential Psychotherapy: A Symphony of Selves. He is a
child/adolescent psychologist and director the Pine River Psychotherapy
Training Institute in Atlanta.
Very likely, you don't have the company's entire list of
providers, Weiss tells WebMD. "Insist on getting the whole provider
list. Then ask friends and colleagues if they know a psychologist or
psychiatrist who could make recommendations from that list."
He gets plenty of calls from people who say, "I have Aetna
insurance. I know you're not an Aetna provider, but can you look at my
"They fax it to me, and I make recommendations. I do it all
the time," he says.