Picking a Psychotherapist by drchrislove


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									                                          Picking a Therapist...
                                          By Chris Love, Psy.D.

“Pick me, pick me” shouts the four-legged jackass jumping high in the air at the back of the crowd in
scene in a famous movie about a shy and greatly misunderstood green giant. We all laughed because
the scene brought back those uncomfortable memories of our teenage years when popular others were
picked while many of us remained in the lineup, unchosen. Why others were chosen over us is a
complex topic and maybe will be a topic of a later “Notes.” However, choosing a therapist has some
similarities to picking the best possible players for a half-court pickup game, but it is not always about
the person with the best free throw shot.

The process of therapy is an intensely personal endeavor. We choose to go to someone for help because
we have been unable to figure it out on our own. If we could have fixed it, why spend the time and
money to tell another person about our problems? Also, therapy involves personal disclosure in a
confidential setting. Even so, it is still telling someone else about how we have been hurt by another, or
hurt ourselves. Therapy involves gaining trust in a stranger and keeping that trust. Many people find
this very hard if not impossible to do.

So how do you know if a therapist can gain and keep our trust? Many times when we look for a
therapist we will turn to trusted friends, a pastor, rabbi, priest, or our doctor for advice. Our friends may
know someone who has seen a therapist and had good results who could make a recommendation. But
then, both the friend and that other person would know that we need to see a therapist. Of course, we
hide our own need by saying, “I have a friend who needs...” when we are the person in need. This is a
dilemma because we are hurting and need to talk to someone, but who?

There are many resources that have referral sources including state and national therapist trade
associations such as the American Psychological Association, the California Psychological Association,
and the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Individuals psychologists and
therapists join these organizations for various reasons and one of the benefits they receive is to be
placed onto a referral list for the association. This may be a good place to begin looking for a therapist
but it is not the only place. Other resources also include mental health service agencies in the local
community. These agencies are much closer to the community and they will be able to refer to
appropriate providers or they may have their own therapists or service providers. The good thing about
working with an agency is that they will usually have several options to help find the right therapist.

Talking with your family doctor is always a good step to take when dealing with a complex problem.
Your doctor has your best interest in mind and he or she is not in the therapy business, so there is no
conflict of interest. Also, your doctor will be able to tell if the problem is serious enough to require
medications to stabilize the behaviors of the person in need. When you talk to your doctor, though,
remember to ask them if they think seeing a psychologist or other therapist to work on the problem
would be a good idea. Your doctor may be able to help with an anti-depressant or provide some good
common-sense advice, but this may not be enough to find lasting relief to your problem. It is good to
remember that complex problems do not go away by themselves and are not fixed quickly. Finding
quality solutions to complex psychological or interpersonal problems is what psychotherapy is all

Chris Love, Psy.D.                      Picking a Therapist © 2010                                     1 of 2
In looking for the right therapist for you, ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL! If a therapist does not seem
right for you, or the “shoe does not fit,” find a new therapist. Psychotherapists can facilitate therapy
through over four hundred different styles of therapy. Everyone is different, including psychotherapists.
So, be yourself, explain the outlines of your problem to a prospective psychotherapist and see what
happens. The right therapist will have the skills to help you feel good about yourself even as you work
through the terrible things that have happened to you or the terrible mistakes you have made and now
want to resolve. Over 85% of what works in therapy due to the fact that the therapist and their client
were able to build a quality trusting therapeutic relationship that provided a secure foundation to heal
the deepest hurts.

So ask friends or family for advice about seeing a psychotherapist if you don't mind everyone else
knowing your business. Asking your doctor will be confidential and will always be a good resource.
Asking a community mental health agency will also be confidential and is also likely a good resource.
Remember, at the end of the searching the choice is up to you, not your family or your friends. You will
have to live with your choice, but your choice does not have to remain final. If you find that the
therapist you chose does not continue to help you to feel safe while in therapy even when working
through very painful issues, consider another therapist. You are free to leave therapy at any time and
your therapist will provide you with referrals to another therapist. As a psychotherapist, I consider
myself but a small part of client's recovery from their problems. You are the major part of your
recovery; find a therapist who will cheer you on!

Chris Love, Psy.D.                    Picking a Therapist © 2010                                   2 of 2

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