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Finding the right professional for you

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Whether you suffer from or support someone with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a therapist is likely a requirement at some point or another.

For those who have never been to therapy, starting is often the hardest part. It takes courage to begin dealing with painful issues. For those who have been in therapy before and left unsatisfied, you may not have been a good fit with your therapist. Here is some advice to find the perfect therapist for you.

Types of Therapists
There are several different types of psychotherapists. Any of these types can be a good option depending on why you decided to see a therapist. Generally, therapists fall into the following categories:
  • Psychologist - doctorate level, has the most formal training in psychotherapy, usually deals with more serious issues, is the only type that can do a psychological assessment
  • Psychiatrist - a medical doctor who specializes in mental health: while they may do therapy, their primary function is to prescribe medication for psychological disorders
  • Marriage and family therapist (MFT) - Master's level therapist, usually deals with life stressor problems, couples and family issues
  • Social worker - Bachelor's or Master's level, similar clients as a MFT, more expertise in case management (finding social and economic resources),
  • Counselor - least amount of professional training, geared towards problem-solving and emotional support
  • Therapist in training - least amount of experience, usually least expensive, must be supervised by a therapist with a license so you are getting two therapists for the price of one
Therapeutic Orientation
There are several different types of therapy orientations and techniques. However a good, quick overview:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Good for treating symptoms
  • Tends to be shorter term and faster change than psychodynamic
  • Expect skill building, problem solving and homework
  • Good for addressing the root of the problem
  • Tends to be longer and more intensive than CBT
  • Expect to discuss your childhood and relationships
Therapist Search
Although you could ask for a referral from people you know, a more precise method is to search an online therapist directory. Google to quickly find them.

Before you begin searching for a therapist, define your problem.
  • Why are you going to therapy?
  • What do you want to get out of it?
  • What barriers will come up for you that will prevent you from continuing therapy?
Determining the answers to these questions will guide your search. Once you know what you are looking for, you can focus your search criteria in the directory. Some examples of search criteria:
  • Gender of therapist
  • Location
  • Specialization of therapist
  • Issue you want to work on
  • Therapeutic orientation or technique
  • Insurance
Once you have entered your search criteria, there is usually a price of therapy on a therapists' profile. This may be a set price or a range. If it states on their profile that they accept sliding scale fees, then this means that the fee is negotiable. Therapists that offer sliding scale fees will base the fee on your income, so if you make minimum wage you may pay significantly less than someone the makes $100,000 per year.

These sliding scales range widely depending on the therapist. For example one psychologist may range from $150 (standard fee) down to $100 (for low income) while another slides down to $40 for low income. Therefore, it is important to ask about fee and be honest about your financial situation.

When you find a few therapists you like, check them out in more detail. If they have a website, visit it and read their bio, training background and any articles they may have written. If all of that fits well with what you are looking for, then check online with their regulatory board to make sure that their record is clean.

Setting Up a Session
Make a final list of 3-5 potential therapists. Call each one and spend a few minutes talking to them. This is important because you will get a good feel of their personality and working style over the phone. Some therapists you call may not have an opening to see you, some may not be affordable and some may not have a time slot that works with your schedule. Even more importantly, you may get a bad feeling while talking to them. Follow your instincts; if you don't like talking to them over the phone, you probably won't like talking to them in person. Important questions to ask:
  • How does therapy with you typically work?
  • What type of client do you usually work with?
  • How will your therapeutic orientation help me?
  • What is your fee?
  • Any other specific information you feel is important to know
Meeting with the Therapist: First Session
When you have your first session with your chosen therapist, get a feel for what it will be like to work with this person.
  • Does it feel good to have a warm, empathic therapist?
  • Or is it frustrating because you want a more impartial, psychoanalyst to understand your unconscious motivations?
  • Do you feel satisfied with a more technical therapist who is focused on problem solving?
It is perfectly acceptable to see multiple therapists for a first session and choose which one fits you best. If you decide against seeing a certain therapist, make sure to tell them so they do not hold a space for you.

Finally Committing
After meeting with one or more therapists, make a decision about who you are going to stick with, and commit to attending regular sessions for a period of time. Determine what this time period is with your therapist as the time period for change varies among therapeutic techniques. Whatever you decide on, it is important to stick to it. It is common for therapy to be uncomfortable or even painful at first. However, change happens slowly and confronting a problem in your life is the first step towards recovery, healing, and growth.
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After a severe bout of PTSD last night in which the police were going to commit me to the hospital (and I didn't care) my husbands therapist gave him a list of therapists that specialize in EMDR that I have just left a message for someone to call me back. Talk therapy is not working and I just leave with more of a trigger to go into another episode. Fingers crossed!
I can certainly speak on this topic. My last therapist was a disaster. Got to where I could not trust her. And all the therapy before that was a waste. when I was about to give up, I instead gave things one last chance, I am glad I did, you can see from my posts the progress I have had with her. Most significant being I went from a hopeless outlook to a hopeful outlook.

finding the right therapist is a shot in the dark. You have to try them out to see if the fit, just a pair of jeans
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