The decision to enter therapy marks the beginning of a significant
investment in one’s quality of life. Finding the right therapist
is a highly personal decision, and you’ll want to find someone with whom
you’re confident and comfortable. Provided below are My thoughts
on a variety of important questions that may assist you in finding the
Why do people seek therapy? What are the
different types of therapists? How do I begin a search for a good
therapist? What questions should I ask a potential therapist? How should
I evaluate the therapist? Once you decide on a therapist…How to find out
if my insurance will help pay for therapy?
Why do people
Many people choose to get help because of a
crisis in their lives, such as a recent loss, infidelity, divorce,
stress overload, or problems with children. Others enter therapy
for relief from on-going problems such as depression, anxiety, family or
marital conflict, or substance abuse. Others look to therapy to
help them explore their full potential.
not only about solving immediate problems…it’s about improving one’s
quality of life. Today, many people enter therapy for personal
growth, to increase self-confidence and self-esteem, to enrich their
personal relationships, and to be more powerful in their career path.
What are the different types of therapists?
choosing a therapist, you should familiarize yourself with the options
available to you. Therapy can be provided by a variety of
specialists including Clinical Psychologists (Ph.D., Psy.D.), Marriage
and Family Therapists (MFT), Clinical Social Workers (MSW or LCSW),
Psychiatrists (M.D. or D.O.), and Pastoral Counselors (M.Div. or
D.Div.). While education, training, and orientation vary, it’s
important to find a skilled therapist with whom you feel both
comfortable and confident.
How do I begin a search for a
Remember, You are
the consumer! A therapist is there to serve you, so it’s important to
shop around and begin to develop expectations for therapy.
Begin by finding out the names
of several respected therapists in your area. You may ask people
you trust (friends or family, physicians, attorneys, pastors, or school
counselors about child and adolescent therapists), obtain a provider
referral list from your HMO or PPO, or contact professional
organizations such as California Psychological Association (CPA),
California Association of Licensed Clinical Social workers (NASW- CA) or
California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists (CAMFT).
What questions should I ask a potential therapist?
you have several referrals, you should set up an interview to get to
know the therapist’s approach and style and to see if he or she shares
your same goals for therapy. Most therapists offer consultations for a
set fee. Use this time as an opportunity to find out about the
therapist, talk about your goals and reasons for pursing therapy, and
ask for his/her assessment of your situation and how he/she might help
you. Through this process, you’ll decide whether this therapist is
someone with whom you feel comfortable and confident. Below are
some of the questions you may wish to ask in a consultation:
- What is your education, training, and background?
- Are you licensed or certified?
- Do you belong to a professional association and, if so, which
- Are you in good standing professionally, or are you under any
sort of disciplinary action?
- What is your approach to therapy?
- How long are appointments, how often should I see you, and how
long does therapy generally takes?
- Can I get a regular appointment time?
- Are you available for emergency consultation if I experience a
- Do you take insurance?
- What are your fees and financial policies (charges for telephone
calls between sessions, cancellations, and missed appointments)?
- What are your policies regarding confidentiality (especially re:
couples therapy, family therapy, and treatment of a minor)?
- What is your assessment of me and my situation?
- If you formulate a diagnosis, will you inform me?
- What are your views on (mention any specific issue, such as
gender roles, marriage and divorce, religion, etc., that is
important to you)?
- Are there any risks to therapy?
What advice do you give clients about
getting the most from their therapy experience?
Pay close attention to how you feel with the therapist. Notice
if you’re comfortable being honest about what’s going on in your life.
If the therapist doesn't seem right, don't let this stop your search –
there is someone out there who is right for you. Even the best
therapist in the world is not the right fit for everyone.
should I evaluate the Therapist?
After meeting with a
prospective therapist, evaluate him/her on the following types of
considerations. Therapy is an important investment of your
personal time, emotional energy, and finances, and you deserve to make
the right decision.Connection and “Good Fit”: Research shows that the
quality of the therapeutic relationship is the primary factor in making
therapy successful. You should feel comfortable with the therapist
you select and sense that he/she is competent and prepared to help you
achieve your goals.Interest: A good therapist is genuinely
interested in you, your situation and goals, and your expectations.
Receptivity: A good therapist will be very receptive to honesty
and directness. Were you able to be honest and direct?Accurate
Assessment: A good clinician should be able to give you an initial
assessment that captures your problem or dilemma, sheds some interesting
light on factors that may be contributing to the problem, and suggests
important steps that will likely be necessary in resolving these
problems and helping you achieve your goals. Training: In
general, you're better off with therapists who have professional
credentials. Experience: In order to work well with you, a
therapist should have experience with the type of problem you're
experiencing. Life Experience: A therapist’s life experience
should allow him/her to have enough life knowledge to understand your
situation, problems, and goals. Clarity about Goals: A good
therapist will be willing to discuss the goals for therapy with you.
Review of Goals: The therapist and the client periodically review
the goals and take stock of the progress made. Response to Feedback: A
good therapist gives straightforward answers to questions, discusses
problems, and takes complaints seriously. Use of Consultants: A
therapist should have a consultant or supervisor to discuss their cases
with and give him or her perspective on handling difficult situations.
Personal Boundaries: A therapist may share some relevant details
about his or her own life, but he or she should not spend the session
discussing personal problems. Professionalism: A therapist should
be warm and friendly but remain highly professional in terms of conduct,
focus, and boundaries. Acknowledge Growth and Progress: A
therapist will encourage your independence and acknowledge your
progress. When your major goals are nearly met, the therapist will
begin talking about ending your therapy.
Once you decide on a
Once you have chosen a therapist whom you feel
really comfortable with and confident in, set an appointment and begin!
Then, be sensitive to the progress you’re making and discuss this openly
and regularly with your therapist. You should experience progress
in the following ways.Early Progress: Within the first 3-4 sessions,
you should be feeling increasingly comfortable with your therapist,
sense a good measure of trust, and feel that you are working together.
The therapist should have an increasingly clear handle on your
situation, and you should already be sensing initial movement or relief.
However, sometimes things get worse before they get better. This
is understandable as you begin to explore problems and face feelings
that have been buried. Make sure that you ask your therapist
whether your experience is normal. In couples and family therapy,
you should already have received and be practicing specific strategies
for improving the relationship patterns.Ongoing Progress: As your
therapy continues, you should be provided with specific assignments to
keep working toward your goals outside of therapy appointments, and you
should be receiving outside recommendations (classes, coinciding
alternative treatments, local resources, collaborative referrals like
psychiatrists for medication evaluations, and so on). You should
be discussing your progress regularly, and results should be measurable.
Time to End Therapy: As you’ve achieved the gains you’ve wanted,
it’s time to discuss ending therapy. A customary way to end
therapy is progressively decrease the frequency of sessions to twice or
once per month. If everything holds well, then it’s time to end
the therapy. Clients will oftentimes leave therapy and then call
when something in their lives comes up that they want to talk about, and
they’ll schedule a few more sessions.
How do I find out if
my insurance will help pay for therapy?
If you have HMO
insurance, you must use only therapists who work for the HMO. If
you have PPO insurance, you may select any provider you wish. The
difference with a PPO is that they will pay a higher percentage for a
therapist on their provider list (“In-Network”) and a lower percentage
for therapists who are not on the provider list (“Out-of-Network”).
My office is a straight fee-for-service practice; I am on some
insurance provider lists. For those of my clients that have PPO
insurance and I am not a provider they submit their monthly invoices to
their insurance companies and receive reimbursement at the
This is how to find out what your
insurance company would reimburse from this office:Mental Health
Benefits: Call your insurance company and ask them what your
Mental Health benefits are. Reimbursement Rates: If you have a
PPO, ask about the reimbursement rates for “In-Network Providers” versus
“Out-of-Network Providers.” Our office will qualify for the
“Out-of-Network” rate (generally a slightly lower percentage). If
you have an HMO plan, you will only receive reimbursement from providers
who are in the HMO’s network, which means that you would receive no
reimbursement for our services.Exclusions: Ask is there are any
“Exclusions” in your policy. “Exclusions” refers to certain
Diagnosis Codes (like ADHD or Substance Abuse) or Procedure Codes (such
as Family Therapy) that are not covered.
If you learn of any exclusion, please notify me before beginning
treatment.Send in Claims: If you have “Out-of-Network” coverage
and decide to seek reimbursement, simply request Claim Forms from your
insurance company. Then, simply fill out a claim form, attach My
Monthly Statement of services provided, and drop it in the mail.
If there is any information on your claim forms that must be filled out
by the provider, I will gladly complete the sections for you. I'm here
to help!: If you have any difficulty finding out about your
coverage, call the office and I’ll be happy to explore this on your
I hope you find these recommendations helpful, and I
wish you the best in finding the right therapist for you. Therapy
is an investment in your quality of life, and the time you devote to
finding the right person will absolutely reward you down the road.
If you have any
comments or suggestions for this page, please contact me. I’d love
to hear from you!