Americans are waking up to the reality that drugs aren’t the answer to everything. Drugs are frequently prescribed by doctors who spend only a few minutes with patients before they whip out the prescription pad. It’s no wonder that over-prescribing is currently a huge problem.


Psychotherapy can be a more effective and useful way to work through life’s problems. The important thing is finding a psychotherapist with the skills to help you. Here are some points to consider when choosing a psychotherapist.


Get a referral

You don’t want the first name that pops up in the phone book here. Ask your doctor for a
 referral, and don’t stop there. You should also ask within your social circle and get the names of therapists who have helped your co-workers, family, or friends.


Do your homework

Once you have a few names, check out websites and reviews to get an understanding of the different professionals you’re looking into. You specifically want to look for people with licenses, professionals who have good reputations in their community, and therapists who can help with submitting claims for out-of-network reimbursements or who are covered by your insurance plan.


Ask about approaches

There are many ways to approach personal problems and mental health struggles in therapy, and you want someone who will take an approach you feel comfortable with. Cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and mindfulness techniques are all legitimate ways to treat mental health concerns. Research these therapies and then seek out a professional whose approach you feel most comfortable with.


Get a consultation

This might be in person or over the phone, but you can usually get some kind of initial consultation that helps you decide whether a particular therapist is a good fit for you. As you search for a “therapist near me,” take advantage of this time to figure out what possibilities are open to you. Ask questions that are uppermost in your mind and use this “pre-interview” to evaluate whether or not you’re comfortable enough to talk to this therapist.


Look for a plan

Once you’ve chosen a therapist, pay attention during the first therapy session, or the first few sessions. This is the time for you to evaluate how comfortable you feel with a therapist. It’s also the time for your therapist to lay out a treatment plan. Don’t be afraid to ask for specifics and ask for an explanation of each step. Your therapist should be able to explain why they think a particular treatment will help you reach your goals.


Once you have been going to therapy for some time, you should eventually notice some change in mood or attitude. You might feel more upbeat and hopefully, less guilty, and more in control. Keep in mind that this will take time, and it’s a gradual process. If you aren’t feeling at least a little relief after several sessions, then you might need to consider seeing another therapist. Be sure, though, that the problem is therapist fit and not your lack of motivation or commitment to the therapy.


Look for red flags

There are some red flags you should watch out for. Therapy is an investment or your time and money, and if you’re noticing any of the following, you should immediately seek a different therapist:

You can’t get a word in edgewise: If your therapist talks more than you do, you have a problem. It’s fine for your therapist to talk, and talking a bit could be a way of helping you feel more comfortable. But if you find that your therapist is always talking and hardly letting you get a word in, consider moving on.

You notice anything inappropriate: You should feel really comfortable with your therapist. If you ever have the feeling that a therapist’s behavior is strikingly inappropriate - for example, if they engage in sexual behavior with you, then you should file a complaint  with your state board of psychology.

Your confidence is violated: This is exceedingly rare, but if it happens, you should immediately report your therapist. Licensed therapists can only tell others about what you tell them if they believe you present a genuine danger to yourself or to others, if child or elderly abuse is reported, or in the rare case your file is court-ordered or subpoenaed. In any other case, what you say is absolutely confidential.

There are wonderful therapists out there who will help you regain control of your life and future. Finding them just takes a bit of effort and patience.

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