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How to Choose a Therapist

 

how to choose a therapist

As I have been working through setting up this practice I have been reminded of an article I wrote a couple of years ago.  The article was designed as an overview of the different mental health professions that exist, educational requirements, as well as how the profession would fit into a hospital setting. To read the article, see this link – http://www.hughsdigest.com/mental-health-workers-an-overview-of-education-qualification-and-licensure/  This article seems relevant to me because one of the most common questions I hear regarding my profession is the question of how to choose a therapist.

While I think the article has some valuable information in it, I want to take a different approach here when discussing how to choose a therapist.   I have had many people ask me what is the difference between various kinds of helping professionals, and how to choose the best one.  For an overview of the fields within mental health that provide different kinds of therapy, see the article.  Typically though, when someone is looking for a mental health professional, the therapist or professional is either a Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Social Worker, Counselor, Marriage & Family Therapist or in some cases a Life/Leadership/Executive Coach.  Even though to be a coach, no licensure is required, I add it into the mix because I think it’s relevant for this discussion.

I mention the idea of “goodness of fit” on my Psychology Today profile as well on my website.  The term “goodness of fit” when referring to choosing a helping professional, is just as it reads; how good is the fit between the two people?  I think this idea is one that may be overlooked sometimes, but is a very important component.  When searching for a helping professional, one of the strongest variables that may determine success is the fit.  The question then becomes – “How do I decide if this professional is a fit for me?”

Most of the time there are websites, some online presence, or at least a phone call that can be accessed for free, in order to get a better idea of who the person is that you may be working with.  In my professional experience, as well as my own personal experience with coaches, mentors and therapists, I see a number of factors that may be important in identifying fit.  Here are 4 questions that may help to identify some of the nature of the fit, when speaking with or meeting with a prospective helping professional:

How does this person communicate?

When speaking to this person or having the opportunity to meet with them, what kind of communicator do I think they are?  There is probably not a wrong answer here, necessarily.  However, how the answer is interpreted will determine what kind of communication is important for you.   Some people like more direct interaction, some people prefer more inquisitiveness or curious nature, while others prefer someone who will just listen and reflect.

What is their philosophy about where growth and change comes from, and does this philosophy align with mine?

While there are many theories about what elicits change and what leads to progress, working with someone that has a similar philosophy may be beneficial.  If a helping professional holds the belief that change comes from working through someone’s past issues to uncover the meaning behind behaviors so that they aren’t repeated, and you identify with this, then perhaps this is a great fit.  Alternatively, some people approach change from a forward facing lens, where strengths are identified and built upon and past stories and behaviors are looked at limitedly.  Neither approach is wrong, there may be some people that will have greater success with one or the other.

Are the service details in line?

The details of the prospective helping professional’s services can be an important factor.   Some of these details may be price, location, availability, practice modality and experience.  Practice modality and experience may be important if you are specifically looking for someone that has experience in working with trauma for instance.  Making sure that someone does have the experience in dealing with the issue that you would like to address can be an important piece to consider.  Reading about the person’s background or asking lots of questions to clarify the person’s background can be an effective approach when evaluating this part of the “goodness of fit.”

How do I feel when I am speaking with this person or in their presence?

Trusting our gut can be a challenge.  However, asking ourselves the question of – how am I feeling in this moment? – can be valuable.  If we feel at ease, comfortable, curious or eager to share with this person, then these may be good cues that this may be a good fit.  Of course, our first impression can sometimes be off, but adding up our general gut feeling combined with some of the other questions, can add a sense of security in our decision making.

 

I’d like to add that there are many wonderful helping professionals out there with a wide variety of experiences and approaches.  Remember, that if you have an experience that is not what you are looking for; this may be a reflection of the “goodness of fit” and not the profession itself.   Seeking out a professional that is a great fit may bring up just as many questions about ourselves as it does for the person we are looking for.

Enjoy the journey!

Michael

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Starting a Counseling and Consulting Practice

Greetings!  This is the first of many blog posts, so if you are reading this….thank you!  I wanted to start out reflecting about my experiencing of starting a consulting and counseling practice.  So far this has been an exciting, fear provoking, confusing and fun experience.   At the most this may give you something to work with, if you are a practitioner considering going out on your own, and at the very least – some entertainment.  So, here are 5 of the pieces that have stood out to me thus far, as I wind through learning how to establish a business.

Website

Writing a website, or at least the content for it, was quite the task.  It is not as easy as I thought it may have been to develop explanation for all the little pieces that begin to seem so necessary.  It has been interesting to balance between functionality, promotion, flare and professionalism….seems like a bit of an art.

The website is now active and although I feel pretty good about it, I think that it will be in a constant state of development (www.www.arcintegrated.com).   I would like to offer a huge thank you to RTS Consulting (www.rtsadvantage.com) and Sean King, who helped me to design and develop the website.  Sean was a patient and extremely helpful guide in this process.

I recognized recently that just the exercise of writing content for the website was valuable in and of itself.  This exercise forced me to look at what my values are, which parts of my work experience I want to draw from or emphasize, as well as how I am choosing to describe and present myself in a way that is more expansive than a resume or LinkedIn profile.

Expenses, Income and Budgeting

One of the great things about starting this business is that it has pushed me towards being more aware of where all the money is being spent and earned.  What I mean to say, is that if I am to be successful, I am now forced to really track my expenses and income.    This has actually been more fun than expected.   Before going out totally independent as a consultant/subcontracted therapist and therapist in private practice, I did some research on how to track things.   For this first year I have decided to track things on my own, rather than buying a program like Quick Books.  So far, this method seems to work well.  I’ve set up an excel spreadsheet where I can track all incoming money as well as all expenses and other details.   My hope is that come tax time, my accountant will approve of this process, I think he will.  I imagine as things continue to grow, I will make a move to a more sophisticated method of tracking, but for now, what I have works well.  I keep many more receipts and spend more time in a database tracking money than before.  Overall, I think tracking things helps me manage money more effectively and gives me a better perspective of my spending habits in general.

Client database management

When I decided I wanted to start seeing clients through my own practice I knew I wanted to have digital record keeping instead of tracking notes on paper.  Since I also knew I wanted to do distance counseling, I was able to find a way to integrate them both.  I found a service that allows me to see clients in a HIPAA protected platform, but also allows me to keep track of client information, take notes, create invoices, etc.  I’m still exploring this service but so far it seems great! The name of the service is Counsol (www.counsol.com).  I understand that there are many options out there for client management, notes and record keeping.  Although I only have experience with this one, I would definitely recommend it as an option.

Networking and Marketing

So far the networking piece has been the easiest for me.  I am naturally inclined to network anyway, and have experienced much success with this in the past.  My belief is that our ability to connect with others is a highly under-rated tool that we all have.  With social media at the tips of our fingers at every waking moment, it has become much easier to connect with people and let them know what the latest professional or personal news is, whether they like it or not.    However, I think that there is much added value from talking with people over coffee/lunch about what we are doing and how we may be able to help each other.  I continue to be surprised how simply setting up informational meetings and talking about what I am doing, continues to lead to more and more opportunity.

Social Media

I’m probably on the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to social media user knowledge, but I’m learning!  I have not personally used anything else other than Facebook, so there was a definite learning curve here.  I realize the importance of utilizing social media, so I am all for it.  I highly recommend utilizing tools that can populate multiple social media accounts.  I have used a service called Hoot Suite (www.hootsuite.com) which I would recommend.   Deciding on what to tweet, post, blog about feels a little intimidating so far, although I’m sure this will pass.  It seems that the more I write the easier it may be to decide on material and continue to offer ideas.

 

This list of five is definitely not a conclusive list, but these parts of setting up this business continue to stand out for me.  It seems that with some research, enthusiasm, determination and intention, that starting a practice has been a great process!  I look forward to what’s ahead.

 

Thanks for reading!

Michael

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