Congratulations! You have taken the first (and most difficult) step and you have decided to seek help. I bet now you are learning how hard it is to find the right therapist for you. Hopefully, I can help!
Successful therapy is dependent on having a good therapist and client match. Therapy involves opening yourself up, sharing your vulnerabilities, and taking risks to grow and be a better you. You must feel comfortable with your therapist, confident in their skills and training, and connected with who they are so that these changes can occur. I will answer some common questions so that you can make a more informed choice about who to choose to support you in therapy.
Where to begin?
The first step requires you to identify what you want help with. Do you struggle with depression or anxiety? Are you going through a particular life transition (ie., divorce, new mom, retirement)? Is your marriage in jeopardy? Identifying your main concern will help you to focus your search on professionals who have experience treating problems similar to yours.
Start to identify some therapists in your area. Ask friends and family if they can recommend someone. This is often helpful because you can hear a real world account of a person’s experience of this professional. However, I would advise that you do not seek treatment with the same therapist as a close loved one, family member, or friend. It can complicate treatment and prevent you from reaching your goals. BUT, a loved one’s therapist can be a great source for a referral for you! A trusted medical professional can also provide referrals to therapists they have worked with previously.
Psychology Today is also a wonderful resource. There is a directory of therapists and each has their own profile with information regarding their practice. Information on areas of expertise, education and theoretical background, financial investment, and office location are provided, too. Many therapists also include a photo. Here’s a link to mine so you can see the format: http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/name/Jodi_C._Berman_PhD_Westport_Connecticut_71308
Your insurance company can provide you with the names of therapists who are in-network, but be aware that these listings can be out-dated and incomplete. Also, they typically only provide you with a provider’s name and contact information. I suggest cross checking these individuals with another resource such as Psychology Today’s directory as it will give you more information and help you to narrow down your options.
Google! Do a search of the names you get. You might find their website, blog, publications or anything that will help you to get a sense of who the therapist is, the work they do, and if they can help you.
There are so many types of providers. How do I choose?
As you will find, there are various types of providers with different degrees and different training. I will provide a brief description of the most common below:
Clinical Psychologist: A Clinical Psychologist has a doctoral degree (either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D.). Training typically involves 5-7 years of coursework, clinical work, and research. Psychologists’ training includes understanding the mind and behavior as well as the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of emotional, mental, and behavioral disorders. In order to be called a “Clinical Psychologist”, a psychologist must be licensed, which requires proof of training and supervision.
Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists have an MD, which means they are medical doctors who have completed medical school and a 4-year psychiatry specialty and they can prescribe medications. Some also provide psychotherapy in addition to medication management.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker: A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) has a Masters in Social Worker and has completed additional training and supervision to practice psychotherapy. LCSWs must also pass exam to provide clinical services. LCSWs usually have 2 years of training in the Masters program with an additional 3000 hours of related work experience; however, this varies by state. LCSWs are training in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT) usually have a Masters degree, which entails 2 years of training plus additional post-graduate clinical work and supervision to obtain licensure. LMFTs have specialized training in marriage and family therapy.
There are various other types of therapists that can vary depending on state laws. Understanding the therapists training and degree can help you to choose the provider who is the best fit for you. Do your research and if you are unsure, ASK! Below are some questions you can ask potential therapists.
Making the Call
Some individuals prefer to email a potential therapist, but I recommend calling. A brief call puts a voice to the name and helps you to get a better sense of the therapist.
Here are some questions to ask during the initial phone call and/or session.
- What is your professional training and degree and how long have you been in practice?
- What training and experience do you have with my concerns?
- What is your theoretical background?
- How long are the sessions?
- What is your fee?
- Do you accept insurance? If not, will you provide the necessary paperwork to get out-of-network reimbursement?
While the therapist’s answers to these questions are significant, the number of years experience and credentials do not necessarily make a great therapist so do not rely just on this background. Use the phone call to help you decide whether the therapist is a good match. Pay attention to how you feel during the conversation. Do you feel comfortable and heard? Are your questions and concerns addressed satisfactorily? If you decide to schedule a first session, continue asking yourself these questions during your initial session. Remember you are not contracted to work with a therapist so if you feel it is not a good match, you can try someone new.
Good luck on your search and along your path toward growth and healing!
If you need to find a Westport Connecticut Therapist, please call Dr. Jodi Berman at (203) 292-0712.