Tips for finding a therapist


Dear Beatty,

I am a 45 year old married woman with three teenage children. I have been depressed for many years and am considering seeing a therapist. I am very well known in the entertainment industry and am not comfortable asking my friends or family for a recommendation. Can you give me some suggestions on how I can find a therapist who I hope can help me.

– Rebecca G., Sagaponack and New York

Dear Rebecca,

I am impressed that you finally decided to get help because it is too difficult and unnecessary to deal with the ups and downs of life on our own. Choosing a therapist can literally be one of the most important decisions a person can make in their life and can have far reaching consequences, both positive and negative.

These days, more and more people are coming to therapists for a variety of reasons, including depression, loneliness, anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance abuse of all kinds, sexual abuse, and relationship and sexual issues. It is unrealistic to think that the average consumer will know how to go about choosing the right therapist. You need to be aware of consumers.

Here are some suggestions to help you find a therapist who is right for you:

1. Get a referral from someone you trust. Don’t be fooled by flashy ads, TV appearances, or “likes”. And remember, your best friend’s therapist might not be the best for you!

2. Make sure the therapist you choose has significant clinical experience and specializes in your particular problem (s). It is not possible to be an expert in everything.

3. Ask yourself if you prefer to work with a woman or a man.

4. Check his license and make sure there are no past or ongoing malpractice complaints filed against your therapist.

5. Expect your therapist to ask you lots of tough questions about your family history, relationship history, sexual history, previous psychiatric issues including possible hospitalizations, suicide attempts, thoughts and actions. , medications you are taking (prescription and over the counter). ), possible addictions, history of sexual abuse, sexual assault, affairs and gender identity issues. While many of these questions are difficult for you to answer, it is essential for the therapist to know these facts so that they can make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. This is only possible if the right questions are asked and your answers are truthful.

6. Ask yourself after the first few sessions if you are comfortable with your therapist. Don’t expect high comfort instantly. Like any relationship, it takes time for trust to develop. However, if you continue to feel uncomfortable after several sessions, remember that there are other therapists you can connect with. There should never be any inappropriate advances, sexual, verbal or otherwise, between you and your therapist.

7. Does your therapist respect your time and call you back within 24 hours including evenings, weekends and holidays, if necessary? The fact that health insurance funds often poorly reimburse therapists and psychiatrists for outpatient mental health care should not be of concern to you. You want to work with someone you can count on, especially in an emergency. You are entitled to sessions of a minimum duration of 50 minutes. I find the longer sessions work even better, especially at the start. My own patients find that sessions of two hours or even longer help achieve results faster.

8. Your therapist should have some type of communication with your primary care physician in order to rule out any physical issues or prescription drugs that may be contributing or even causing your mental, emotional, and psychiatric issues. After a few sessions, your therapist should be able to give you your diagnosis, including a detailed treatment plan. I also believe that anything less than weekly sessions, at least initially, will not give you the best possible momentum for success in therapy. If money is an issue, try negotiating your fees with your therapist or even suggesting a payment plan. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want! Remember that your therapist is not an omniscient god or goddess.

9. You should ask if your spouse, parents, siblings or children will need to participate in your therapy. Obviously, if you are having relationship difficulties, it is essential (assuming you feel safe) that your partner is involved in your therapy at some point. Some therapists only treat the individual patient and will refer you to a couples therapist or family therapist if necessary.

10. In my professional opinion, your therapist needs to have a good understanding of your family history and help you see how the past has affected your current situation and issues. And while we can’t change the story, it’s critical that you understand how and why you may have learned your self-destructive, self-sabotaging, or destructive behaviors. This will help you learn to be aware of living your life in a way that is in your best interest for the future.

11. Ongoing evaluation is necessary to determine how well (or how well) your therapy is going. Expect that you will experience considerable pain at times, as effective therapy helps you take a critical look at yourself and your life, past and present.

12. The question of drugs comes up often. Although no one likes to undergo medical treatment, there are certain clinical situations that absolutely require a combination of medication and psychotherapy. Please don’t beat yourself up if you have found that massage, acupuncture, energy healing, meditation, vitamins, exercise, and a healthy diet have not helped relieve your symptoms. Brain chemistry is very complex, so let the experts do their job. And if you need to take medication, find a qualified psychiatrist who specializes in psychopharmacology who will work with you to make sure you are taking the right medication and the right dose.

13. Successful therapy depends not only on the expertise of your therapist, but also on the time, work and energy you are willing to devote to your therapy. In my own practice, I assign homework after each session for individuals as well as couples.

14. Finally, remember to spend at least as much time researching your therapist as deciding which car, computer, or cell phone to purchase.

Good luck on your therapeutic journey!

Beatty Cohan, MSW, LCSW, AASECT is a nationally recognized psychotherapist, sex therapist, author of For Better For Worse Forever: Discover The Path To Lasting Love, columnist, national speaker, guest national radio and television expert and host of The Ask Beatty Show on the progressive radio network. She has private practice in New York and East Hampton.

Beatty would love to hear from you and welcome your questions and comments. Email him at [email protected] or visit for more information.

Beatty Cohan, MSW, LCSW, AASECT

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