Saturday, October 20, 2007

How to Choose a Therapist

Is life going up in flames? Are you suffering through a nasty divorce, a devastating layoff or even prolonged depression? Life's difficulties are hard to avoid, and we might get stuck in them and not see a way out. That's when getting help from a professional may be imperative.

But how do you go about finding the right help? Wisdom, life experience and empathy are vital in a therapist. After all, he or she will have to teach you the skills you need to manage life. Here are some things to consider when searching for the right match:

Location - Location proximity is actually very important. People make excuses when it comes to therapy: "I can't make my appointment today because it's too far..." Location should not become an obstacle. If there are no therapists in your zip code, try those in a town nearby. The Synergy Counseling Center is located in Fort Payne, the county seat of Dekalb County. Synergy Counseling Center is located on First Street, downtown, across the street from Fort Payne Printing.

Comfort Level - Check out the photo profiles of therapists in your area. Do you think you'll be comfortable discussing the secrets of your life with this person?  At Synergy Counseling Center, we strive for the absolute comfort of all our clients.

The Right Stuff - Find a professional who has treated people with problems similar to those you face. Often a therapist focuses on specific issues such as eating disorders, sexual dysfunction or mood disorders. And, of course, find out what treatment the therapist employs as well as his/her results. Sometimes a therapist works closely with particular populations such as adolescents, gay couples or people of particular religious backgrounds. Be sure to learn your therapist's focus.

Basics - Ph.D., M.D., Psy.D., M.S.W., M.A., M.S., M.Div., D.Min. - don't fuss over credentials and degrees. What you really need is a therapist who will connect with you. All therapists at the Synergy Counseling Center are fully qualified, but work very hard to connect with every client.

The Methods - Therapists have certain methods and orientations. Some use cognitive behavioral therapy, for example. A variety of methods are effective. Synergy Counseling Center offers a variety of therapeutic treatment methods.

Make Contact - Contact two or three therapists. You will most likely get voicemail. Don't hang up; leave your name and number. On your first visit, ask yourself, "Do we click?" Do you feel a connection with your therapist? For you to reveal yourself, you will need to feel safe and at ease.

In The Pocket - When you do settle on a therapist, settle on the fee beforehand. You may also need to inquire about a sliding-scale arrangement - a flexible fee schedule adjusted to your needs or income. The Relationship Clinic fee is $65 per session, normally about one hour. If there is a financial need, a fee reduction can be applied for. Synergy Counseling Center does not accept insurance arrangements. There's a confusing array of insurance arrangements - HMO's, MBHO's, private pay. The Synergy Counseling Center will provide receipts which allow the client to file their own claim. Every carrier is different.

Sharing Values - Equally critical is sharing the same values. One would think that psychotherapy is value-free, but finding a therapist who shares your beliefs is necessary. You are building a relationship, so starting at the core is important. If struggling with a partner in a relationship has brought you to therapy, for example, you certainly want to know how the therapist feels about cohabitation before marriage. The therapists at the Synergy Counseling Center are professional, but Christian oriented.

Are You Listening? - Does your therapist have good listening skills? Don't laugh, but you need to be sure he/she is attentive and hears what you have to say. That's why it's called talk therapy. Is he/she asking the right questions, is he/she asking enough of them?

Too Eager - A therapist shouldn't be too eager to please. Say you suffer from self-esteem problems, it does no good if the therapist does nothing more than flatter you. Instead, choose one who will challenge you. You will want one who is proactive and perhaps gives you assignments. He/she might ask you to read up on your issues or to conduct an experiment. The road to good mental health takes work.

Ask the provider how long therapy should last. - Don't accept a vague answer. If the person is experienced, he or she should have an idea of what you can expect.