Health Care Dialogue
By Dr. Kim Hwang, PsyD
Dear Dr. Hwang:
“How do you find a good therapist?”
Dear Wise Consumer:
Finding a therapist that suits your specific emotional needs, schedule, personality and values are important factors to consider. Many therapists claim competencies that are broad, from specializing in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to Psychological Assessments. Therefore, it is critical that you interview potential therapists about their educational and professional backgrounds. You are the consumer. It’s good to think through what your needs are so you can communicate this information to the mental health professionals you are investigating.
As you can imagine, there are many different kinds of therapists, social workers, psychologists, psychotherapists and mental health professionals, as there are doctors. I’m not saying this to diminish special certifications or licenses, but there are vital and specific questions you might want to ask if you are looking to receive specific help. For example, you may be looking for help with drug and alcohol issues or parenting challenges? Most therapists will tell you right away if what you’re dealing with is an area they feel competent in.
You can also check out the credentials of mental health therapists with whatever board they are licensed under, whether it is a Board of Social Work or the Minnesota Board of Psychology. In addition, there are websites where some clients rate therapy experiences. However, be careful because these opinions are subjective and may not give you the information you are seeking. Most importantly, make sure that the mental health provider you are seeking help from is licensed and doesn’t have any violations, which can be confirmed by his/her licensing board or practice.
Whatever the reason you’re seeking support, the therapist will hopefully be respectful, compassionate, kind and understanding. You are looking for a positive match that will help you to process, heal and move forward, towards an increased quality of life. Safe therapeutic relationships are respectful, non-judgmental and invite honest dialogue/questions. It’s true, that you may not find a therapist that fits the profile you hope for. Therefore, you may need to look around, ask around and take your time. Trust is essential. You deserve to feel safe and obtain ethical mental health support. A good therapist follows ethical guidelines, knows how to build positive trust and will support you towards health and healing.
If after several sessions, you do not feel a positive connection, cared about or understood- the particular therapist you chose may not be a good match for you? Healthy therapists understand that they are not for everyone. Just as clients have different personalities, so do therapists. In fact, some therapists have what’s called, “Different Theoretical Orientations” as well. While you may want to give a person a fair chance, you also want to be with someone you can genuinely be yourself with and that is able to interact with you in a healthy manner.
Choosing a therapist can be anxiety provoking. Some people are extremely vulnerable during this process and don’t always realize that a therapist isn’t a good match because they are in such strong need of help. Consequently, a client’s desperation may increase the likelihood that he/she remains in a therapeutic relationship that isn’t effective.
There are many variables to consider in choosing the right person for you. I would submit there are several people who will be able to help you move in the direction you’re hoping for. At the same time, you are the director of the process, so continue to examine your progress and treatment. Obtaining positive help is exciting and empowering as well. Talk about the therapy you receive with trusted others who will respect what you’re going through. They will also help you to keep your expectations and experiences real. Remember, growth is optional. Both parties should be growing and at the same time. It is not a mutually exclusive process. Choose carefully and interview wisely. Pay attention to how you feel and how you are treated. It should never be one more relationship to heal from, rather than a relationship that is a catalyst towards healing. Trust yourself!
Kim S. Hwang, PsyD has a doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology. She is an adjunct professor at the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology. Email questions to [email protected]
Submit questions to Dr. Hwang:
The purpose of this column is to invite you, the readers, to ask questions related to psychological and emotional healthcare issues that you are seeking an opinion to.
This column is not intended to diagnose or offer absolute answers. Instead, it is a very informal platform to begin a dialogue with you the reader, about psychological and emotional healthcare issues that you would like to discuss. Your identity will be protected.
Kim Hwang, PsyD