How do we choose a therapist?
There are so many factors to consider when choosing a therapist for yourself or your family. There are over a half a million licensed therapists in the United States and Colorado has a large share of those! It can be overwhelming browsing through the hundreds of therapists in your area. But what is really important? We all have different things that are important to us and you have to determine what matters most to you. Most therapists at least offer free phone consultations and some even offer a free 30 minute face to face consult. Choosing a therapist is a very personal decision. Here are some questions that you may want to ask when making your choice.
Where is the therapist located? Do they have multiple office locations? Is the location convenient from your home or office?
Credentials and Years of Experience:
It's important to ask about licenses and credentials. In Colorado, anyone can register as an unlicensed psychotherapist, even if they do not have the education or degrees behind their name. It's critical to ask about how long the person has been in practice and what license the clinician holds. Licensure is an easy way to know that the therapist has the proper degrees, education and experience. Being licensed in the state of Colorado means that therapist has a relevant degree with specific educational requirements, a minimum of two years of post-master's experience, has passed an examination, and had clinical supervision for those years. You may also want to ask about how long they have been practicing.
Common licenses are:
LPC = Licensed Professional Counselor
LMFT = Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
LCSW = Licensed Clinical Social Worker
LP = Licensed Psychologist
Specializations and Areas of Expertise:
Just having a license is a good thing, but you may want to know more about what areas the therapist has received special training or has an expertise in. For the most part, any therapist can do traditional cognitive behavioral therapy. It's important to understand that just because a therapist says they treat a variety of issues doesn't necessarily mean they have specialized training in those areas. If you are looking for a specific type of therapy, make sure you ask about this.
Fees and Insurance:
It would be great if this was not an issue, but ultimately, we all need to do what makes sense in our budget. Ask about the cost of sessions and methods of payment. Do they take credit cards? Most importantly, ask about what types of insurance the therapist takes. Make sure you know what your own insurance covers. The therapist may be on your insurance provider list and can take care of the billing for you. Many times, insurance companies will reimburse you for the full or partial amount of the session if you pay out of pocket. Ask if the clinician has a sliding scale fee as well.
Group Practice vs. Individual Practice:
You may want to ask if there are other therapists in their practice. Particularly if you are looking for your family, it's nice to have multiple therapists and specialties in one office so you are not driving all over the city. Often group practices can accommodate individual appointments for families at the same time to help with our hectic schedules.
Gender and Age:
It's OK to ask these questions. It may be important to you to make sure that your therapist is within a certain generation. There are times when you may want a male therapist and other times you may need a female. This may not be a factor for you but if it is, it's OK to ask. If you are an older person looking for a therapist, you may not want someone that is not of your generation. If you are looking for a therapist for your teenager, they may want someone younger.
Religion or Spirituality:
Faith is typically a large part of our lives. A therapist may be able to incorporate religious values into your sessions if this is important to you. Ask about this and how they manage spiritual issues in counseling. Or you may need to make sure that religion is doesn't enter the therapy room. Therapy, like religion is a personal issue. Ask the questions you need to in order to feel comfortable.
Therapy is based on relationships. Having a good relationship with your therapist is critical in your healing process. Although you don't want a 'friend' in your therapist, you want someone to push you towards healing and say the difficult things, but connecting with that person on a human level can be the key to healing. Even after considering all the factors above, it just comes down to the right fit. Trust your internal sense and your intuition to guide you. If you really listen, you always know the right answer.
We are always happy here at Connections to assist you with making a choice to ensure you have the right therapist for you or your family.