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How to Find a Therapist

Whether an adult or child needs therapy, finding the right therapist takes research, patience, and intuition.
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Another important point: Has your therapist been in therapy? "I'm shocked at the therapists who have never undergone personal psychotherapy," Weiss tells WebMD. "They have to have resolved their own issues, or they will steer you away from things they are not comfortable with. They may also bring their own issues into your therapy."

Ask yourself:

  • Do I feel reasonably OK with this person? "Feeling totally comfortable isn't the best criteria, because if you're too comfortable, you're just chit chatting, and that doesn't help you," says Baker.
  • Is the therapist really listening to me? Is he or she asking enough questions? Especially in the first sessions, the therapist should be asking many questions, to become acquainted with you and the issues you are dealing with.
  • Has the therapist asked what outcome you want from therapy -- how you want your life to be? How will you know when you get there, if neither the patient nor the therapist has established a goal?
  • Do you feel satisfied with the therapist's resources? For example, do you have to find your own therapy group? Or is your therapist checking with colleagues about a group appropriate for you?
  • Does what the therapist say make sense? Does it seem like bad advice? Does it help you or not?

Baker says patients don't always like his suggestions -- yet he knows from intuition and experience that its good advice.

Example: Your husband uses profanity constantly when talking to you; you want him to quit. Baker suggests that you mirror your husband's behavior -- you use profanity the next time he does -- a technique he knows will work. "People are always resistant to that, they don't want to 'sink that low,' but then they're amazed at how well it works," Baker says. "It's not that you should take up bad habits, but that he stop his."

Child/Adolescent Therapy

"It's tough finding a good child psychotherapist," says Weiss. "Not many people have much experience working with adolescents. You can end up with a therapist trained to work with adults, but they work with adolescents because they have an adolescent or because they like working with adolescents."

A pediatrician can often make a referral, he tells WebMD. "I warn people about school counselors making referrals; they are overwhelmed and busy, don't follow up to see if good work is happening."

Also, check with other parents. "I recommend that parents identify two or three therapists that they find acceptable, then let your kid pick from among them. That's so they have a voice in this," Weiss advises.

Eugenio Rothe, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami and director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic at Jackson Memorial Hospital, offered his insights.

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