Need a Therapist Sherman Oaks or and Los Angeles area? You know you need hep but where do you start? What kind of help?How do you know if someone is good, or more importantly, “a good fit”? There are many things to consider when choosing a therapist.
First, it is important to have a clear understanding of the professional qualifications of a therapist and what exactly the letters after their name really mean. What degrees/licenses do they hold?
An M.D. (medical doctor, as most are aware) is psychiatrist and is at the highest level of education of a therapist that you can see. However, this does not necessarily make this professional the best choice. For one thing, they will be the most expensive. In the 40’s and 50’s, most psychotherapy was done by psychiatrists and the most common modality was psychoanalysis. This took lots of time and money. Most people, these days are not capable or interested in this sort of therapy. These days few psychiatrists engage in extensive long term treatment. Mostly they focus on areas such as evaluation for possible hospitalization or the prescription of psychotropic medication.
Next are psychologists. They hold a Phd. in psychology. They have done some primary research as well as having had extensive education with regard to secondary research (studies, that others do). They are qualified to do testing.
Two other types of psychotherapists are LMFT’s and LCSW’s. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and Licensed Clinical Social Workers hold Master’s degrees in their respective fields. Some therapists work especially with children or families. Some work exclusively with couples. Some work with groups or individuals. Some are generalists. Another issue to consider is what that person’s specialty or experience is and how long they have been in practice.
As in any profession, when someone specializes in one area, they will have more knowledge, experience and expertise as well as comfort and confidence in that area. So, as one psychiatrist states, “If I were on an elevator with a woman who suddenly went into labor, I could deliver the baby, but she would much rather have her obstetrician do it. ” Each field has it’s own regulatory board. The AMA, American Medical Association for doctors, the APA, the American Psychological Association for Phd’s. and for LCSW’s and LMFT’s, there is the BBS, Board of Behavioral Sciences.
And then, and this is most important, there is the “human factor”. This pertains to the “vibe” of the particular professional in question. Let’s say that you have checked the person out and that they come highly recommended, but that upon meeting them or speaking on the telephone, there is something “off” In other words, even the most accomplished, educated and successful psychotherapist may not be right for you. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS! If the first encounter goes badly, it is likely that it will not change. Most therapists do offer at least a 20 minute telephone session (gratis) so that you can check them out. Don’t be afraid to ask for their license number, their educational background and their experience.
Remember, even if you only work with this person for 3-4 months, it is a very personal relationship. It is important that you feel comfortable, so that you can make the most of the help that they can provide. You can ask your primary care physician as they are often a good resource for a referral. In fact it is probably good to get 3 referrals and compare how you feel with each of them. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a few tries to find the right fit. It is worth it!