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Emotional Well-Being

Finding a Competent, Caring Therapist

To find a therapist whose training, style, and personality are suited to your needs, ask people whom you trust: friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, religious or spiritual advisers, current health care practitioners. You can also contact local mental health centers or places where therapists teach, such as colleges, therapy training centers, or hospitals. 

After finding a possible therapist, here are some questions you may want to ask, either on the phone or at the initial meeting:

  • Do you charge for the initial meeting? If so, how much? How much do you charge for ongoing sessions? Do you have sliding-scale fees?
  • What are your training and theoretical orientation/approach?

  • Can we discuss various options that you think might be useful for me?

  • How do you prefer to work with people: individually, as part of a couple or family, or in a group?

  • What are your specialties?

  • Are you experienced in working with my specific concerns?

  • Do you consult with other colleagues to discuss your therapy work when you have difficulties or concerns?

  • Are you comfortable working with my particular race, ethnic or religious background, class, sexual orientation, or disability?

  • How often would you suggest we meet, and would you have the time available?

  • What are your policies about changing appointments? How much notice must I give?

  • Can you be reimbursed by my insurance plan? What will happen if my insurance coverage runs out?

  • If I have no insurance and no other way to pay, do you know of other resources I can turn to?

  • What do you think about the use of psychotropic drugs?

As you speak to potential therapists, how do they sound to you? Do they answer your questions in a respectful manner? Do you feel comfortable with them? The quality of the relationship with any therapist is critical. Trust your own reactions to the initial interview. Think about whether the therapistís training and style might suit your needs. Donít hesitate to interview several people to find someone with whom you feel quite comfortable. 

Iíve gone to a variety of therapists for shorter and longer periods of my adult life, by myself and with family members. The first time I went, I chose to see a woman, but men have helped me as well. The best of these therapists had these features in common:

  •  They were gentle, friendly, and respectful.

  • They listened well and understood what I was saying.

  • They accepted the way I presented issues and didn't alter them to fit some theory.

  • Their own life problems didnít usually get mixed up with mine; when that happened, they were able to acknowledge it.

  • They helped me define my problems and see my way to making the changes I wanted to make.

  • They were open to my criticisms of them.

  • They cared that I succeeded without claiming responsibility for my success.

 Working with the help of therapists who had these qualities, I felt stronger as a person and clearer about my life.

Written by: OBOS contributors
Last revised: May 2005

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