I received a disturbing email this week. It’s one of many on the same theme which I have received over time, so I knew it was time to address this issue. Here’s the story.
A young lady’s boyfriend went to see a doctor for depression. She shared with me that the doctor apparently said he has “Level 8 Depression” and that he spends too much time with his girlfriend. The girlfriend states she sends him daily emails for support of his depression and they date on the weekends and that’s it. She wanted to know my opinion.
I explained, first of all, that there is no such thing as “Level 8 Depression.” And, secondly, I had entirely too little information to be making any judgment about their relationship. If the information I received is accurate, shame on that doctor. No wonder so many are cynical about the therapy and psychiatry profession. Good golly!
How do you Choose a Competent Therapist
Here’s a great example of the kind of client I would want you to be. I will call him Sam. Sam and I haven’t met yet, but he emailed me locally from here in Indianapolis where I practice and asked me to give him a call. I called him. He said he was interested in marriage counseling. We proceeded to talk for about minutes. First we had the usual small talk to warm up the conversation, then he asked about my credentials and licensing. I explained that I am state licensed and nationally certified. Then he asked how much experience I had, which is years. Later in the conversation, he asked what made me an “expert” in marriage counseling, what model I use and what success couples were experiencing through counseling with me.
These were absolutely excellent questions! You should never be afraid to ask vital questions like these. Sam apologized once or twice for asking so many questions. My response each time was that I was flattered to answer all his questions and I told him that I would do exactly the same thing if I were him.
Would you go see a podiatrist for a heart condition or a veterinarian who fancied himself to be a pulmonary specialist? Of course not, but if you are not your own advocate and sleuth that may be just what happens when it comes to your mental health.
Finally, Sam asked what I thought about seeing a couple from a different cultural background. I told him that as long as they didn’t mind teaching me cultural customs I may be ignorant of, that I would be fine. Then I asked him how that would be for them. By that time we had talked for nearly twenty minutes. We had established a rapport. He said, “Based on how our conversation has gone thus far, I believe you’re the right fit for us.”
The only sad part about this story is that it doesn’t occur nearly enough. I wished more clients would call or email and interview me just like Sam did. Some therapists never even talk to clients before the first interview. Someone else may do the intake for them. If a therapist won’t talk to you directly if you request it, take heed!
Besides the valuable information from both stories, I want to give you clear guidelines on how to choose a competent therapist and make your treatment effective.
First, you cannot beat a personal referral. In fact, 95% of my referrals are word-of-mouth. I was interviewed on a radio talk show at the beginning of this year. From that one hour on the air, several clients have found their way to me. So, Keep your eyes and ears open for professionals who are headlined on the local news, radio and in the newspaper.
Many of my clients both online and off have referred to me as a “friend” at some point in our work together. I cannot think of a better compliment. Howechoose a competent therapistver, though I am a good guy and a good therapist, you certainly would not want to ask me for help if you have bulimia (an eating disorder). Why? I don’t have any expertise in this area. Make sense? So make sure that the person your going to consult with, online or off, has expertise in your area of need.
Certainly check that your potential helper is appropriately certified and/or licensed. Keep in mind that unless a psychiatrist has obtained training to provide psychotherapy, they DO NOT receive this as part of their medical training. As a rule of thumb, psychiatrists are trained in evaluation and medication.
So many of you are looking for professional consultation online today. There are several things to look for. There are beginning regulatory guidelines for those practicing on the net. My site Overcoming Depression is an information and resource site only. However, if you were looking at the site where I offer professional email consultation (CounselingPros.com) you would first note that there is a picture of me listed up top and right. Underneath that are my credentials and a link for you to verify them with the state of Indiana Health Profession’s Bureau. Scroll down and you will see my toll-free number where you can actually call to see if I’m a real person 😉 Some professionals also choose to list their snail mail address. For privacy issues (junk mail mostly) I do not do this. For an exhaustive resource on how to choose a competent therapist online, I have written a book entitled, “The Online Counseling Consumer’s Guide.” It’s an e-book and it’s free if you have Kindle Unlimited.
Remember, the care you choose and receive is initially your responsibility. You deserve no less than the best. Go out and get it!
Dave Turo-Shields, ACSW, LCSW is an author, university faculty member, success coach and veteran psychotherapist whose passion is guiding others to their own success in life. For weekly doses of the webs HOTTEST success tips, sign up for Dave’s powerful “Feeling Great!” ezine at http://www.Overcoming-Depression.com