Thursday, December 13, 2018

Choosing a therapist can be a challenging task. Austin therapist, Adam Maurer, LMFT-Associate, LPC-Intern, offers some insights into the process of finding a therapist that meets your needs.

I have a confession to make. Even as I consider typing the words my body cringes at the thought of admitting this. It sounds like career suicide, but the truth of the matter is that for some people, I would be a rotten therapist.

I mean, I would just stink it up: and it’s not that I’m inept or anything like that. My university made sure to give me a certificate commemorating my 4.0 GPA so that I might prove to others that I know about therapy. This overachieving student cannot be a sensational therapist for everyone who wants help because I, and every other mental health professional, am limited by my scope of competency and my therapeutic modality.

Therapy is similar to medicine in this way. There are doctors who focus on specific diseases, demographics or parts of the human body. All doctors can check a patient’s vital signs, no problem. But, a pediatric surgeon may not be the first choice to perform heart surgery on a 65-year old woman because the surgeon lacks expertise in geriatric medicine.

Graduate schools train therapists how to develop empathy, listen without judgement and work with issues that are common to the human experience. Therapists develop their scope of competency through: practicums, workshops, reading, supervision, training, lectures, and work experiences. For a person seeking therapy, it can be difficult to figure out which therapists may be best suited to help for a particular issue. So, here are some tips for finding a therapist.

Identify The Issues

Consider what issues are encouraging you to enter therapy and try to prioritize them; then search for therapists who specialize in your top issues.

Do Your Research

Most therapists have a website and they offer a free phone consultation or short visit. Before you talk, look over the therapist’s website to gain a sense of who the person is and how the therapist works; then write down any questions you may have.

Ask Questions

Some helpful questions to ask when you call might be about: current trainings they have attended, their therapeutic modality, what a typical client for the therapist is like, books and articles they have been reading or have written, and colleagues they network with currently. This will aid you in developing an idea of how helpful they might be in working with your concerns.

Get A Referral

If a potential therapist you like is unable to see you, ask them to refer you to other mental health professionals who may be of service.

It is also important to understand the difference between an LGBTQ-friendly therapist and a therapist who specializes in LGBTQ issues. An LGBTQ-friendly therapist will not try to pray away your gay. You can talk freely, knowing that you are accepted. An LGBTQ-friendly therapists may not be familiar with the language we use, or they may not understand phenomenons specific to our community. If the main concerns that are prompting you to seek counseling do not appear to be related to your membership in the the LGBTQ community, then a LGBTQ-friendly therapist may be a great fit. Especially if the therapist specializes in an area that is contributing to your distress.

Therapists who specialize in working with the LGBTQ community help their clients consider how heterosexism may be impacting their current issues. In my work I make sure I inquire about family support, levels of outness and other factors that might be contributing to current troubles. There are therapists who identify as allies to the community and specialize in LGBTQ issues. Allies usually have compelling reasons for focusing their work to helping our community. If you are hesitant to work with an ally, consider asking why the therapist chose to work with the LGBTQ community.

A specialization is not about experiencing a certain issue, but about intimate knowledge on the subject. Therapists who specialize in LGBTQ issues tend to be more aware of resources that may be helpful to their LGBTQ clients. Any therapist you decide to work with will be an investment of your time, money and energy. Be wise and make sure you take time to find therapists who are best suited to work with you and your top concerns.