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December 23, 2022

A guide to choosing the right therapist

Mental Health Therapy

Content sponsored by IBC - Native (195x33)

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If you’re struggling with your mental health, don’t worry, you’re not alone. More than half of all Americans will be diagnosed with an emotional or behavioral health disorder at some point in their life.

Fortunately, you have many treatment options. A common one is talk therapy, also called counseling or psychotherapy. The American Psychiatric Association says it can “help people with a broad variety of mental illnesses and emotional difficulties.”

To succeed, talk therapy requires a good relationship between the patient and therapist. So, if you go that route, you should choose your therapist wisely. Here are some tips to help you do that.

How to start

A good way to start is by telling your primary care physician that you feel you have an emotional or behavioral health issue, and you’d like to seek help in dealing with it. This is important because your doctor should know that you’re having these types of problems as they may affect your physical health. Your primary care physician also may be able to recommend a therapist you’ll feel comfortable with.

Your health insurer and/or hospital system also will have mental health professionals in their networks that you may want to consider. There are also online services that work to connect people to the best therapist for them, based on their preferences, clinical needs, and insurance. Additionally, the American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association have online tools to help you find psychologists and psychiatrists near you.

If your employer has an employee assistance program, you may want to begin by seeing if it offers mental health counseling. If it does, and you feel comfortable using its services, you’ll want to review everything about the counselor or counselors it will allow you to see, as thoroughly as you would if you were selecting a counselor outside it.

Therapists and therapies

There are plenty of types of therapists for you to choose from. They include social workers, licensed professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and clergy members.

One thing to consider is their cost. Not only do they have different rates — a clergy member, for example, may charge nothing — but if you have health insurance, it may pay for you to see some types of therapists a certain number of times each year.

Another thing to consider is the type of therapy you’re interested in getting. Couples, marriage, and family counseling are what their names suggest, as is group therapy. Cognitive therapy, or cognitive-behavioral therapy, focuses on your present difficulties and provides you with strategies for coping with them. Behavior therapy, or behavior modification, focuses on getting you to replace your harmful behaviors with healthy ones.

Other considerations

Unless you’re seeking couples, marriage, or family counseling, you may not know what kind of therapy you need. That’s OK. Just make sure that when you talk to mental health professionals you’re considering seeing, you ask them what kind of therapy they provide. You also should ask them to describe it to make sure you’re comfortable with their therapy approach.

If you think you’ll need medication to help you deal with your problem, you’ll need to choose a therapist that can provide it or refer you to someone who can. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication because they have medical degrees. Psychiatric nurse practitioners also are allowed to write prescriptions in some states.

Whatever type of therapist you decide on, make sure they have the proper credentials. Those include the degrees they need for their specialty, such as an M.D. or D.O. for psychiatry, as well as certification from the state in which they practice.

You also want to make sure you feel at ease with them. That may mean talking in depth, or even having a session, with more than one so you’re confident you have the right fit.

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