Maureen Michaels

My thoughts on life and psychotherapy

How do you hire a good psychotherapist?

Places to look:

Obtain a list of providers from your insurance company.
Ask for a referral if you know someone in therapy.
Talk to your physician.
Search the internet.

When you have a list, check each provider’s website. Do you like what you read? Why?

Some basic guidelines:

1.) Insist on interviewing the therapist.

This can be difficult if you are in a crises but very critical. Most good therapists will offer “get to know you” interviews at no charge. I would avoid therapist who will not grant you this time. This can be difficult if you are in a crises but very critical. Think contractor: you wouldn’t hire one without getting an idea of who they are, how they do their work and what solutions they have for your project. A psychotherapist works with you on a uniquely personal level yet very few therapists will actually provide time at no charge for you to have a chance to know who they are. If they will not provide interview time, offer to pay for it or ask for 15 minutes on the phone. I will say it again…Insist on interviewing the therapist

2.) Labels, degrees and licenses give you very limited information about the quality of the therapist.

The range of training in this field is vast. Empathy, understanding and compassion are important qualities in a therapist who will work with you on a very personal level. These qualities are not guaranteed by a license or title. Titles are mostly of value in dealing with insurance companies. The range of training in this undefined field is vast. There are over 150 defined modalities and still counting. Ask the therapist to describe his/her theoretical positions. If he or she uses a term you do not understand, ask them to explain it.

3.) Look for quality first.

Location, cost, sex, age etc are less important. A poor therapist is worse than none at all.

4.) Other qualities to look for:

Warmth, open-mindedness, intelligence, non-authoritarian, kind, collaborative, skeptical and straight talking are all qualities of a good therapist.

5.) Using your insurance has pros and cons.

Having your mental health work noted in your personal health record can have negative ramifications for life insurance, disability insurance etc. Check whether your company is self-insured…many large companies are. Ask your claims administrator what information they receive. Discuss the insurance pros and cons with the therapist that you hire.

6.) Use your own judgment as you have in other areas of your life.

Recommendations will hold up over time if your experience and judgment agree.


Areas of questions for the interview:

Social, curiosity, break the ice questions:

How long have you been in this building? Do you have children? Did you grow up around here? Observe whether the therapist is open and friendly when you do this.

Professional questions:

Affiliations, training, theoretical positions. Where did they train? What was the major emphasis of their training? Have they done their own mental health work? What makes them a good therapist? Do they feel highly invested with their patients? Why or why not? Again, ask them to explain terms they use—you are a lay person in this area.

Personal questions:

You want to size up their life experience…do they have children? Are they married, divorced? How do they work on their own problems? Do they have hobbies? Any questions that help you to size them up as a person.

Position questions:

Ask about values that are important to you. A therapist’s position and attitude directly affects the kind of work they do with you. What is his or her stand on the environment? Politics? Abortion? The economy? Religion? Ask about values that are important to you. Unlike your contractor, a therapist’s position and attitude directly affects the kind of work they do with you.


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