When looking for a therapist or counselor you want to find someone who fits with your needs. The wonderful thing about mental health these days is that you can likely find a specialist for just about any need. Many states now recognize therapists who have expertise in working with marriage and families in an effort to help define more specialties within the field. In the state of NY there are Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, Mental Health Counselors, and Creative Arts Therapists. It can be pretty confusing, not to mention overwhelming!
While a license in a particular discipline can help in your search to find the right person to help, it's also worth noting that some of these specified therapists may be able to help with a variety of needs. In example, a Mental Health Counselor might have a vast background in helping children and families, while a particular Social Worker may specialize in Autism disorders or trauma. To further the areas in which a counselor or therapist can help, they may also follow a particular model of therapy. Some of the different models of therapy would be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Other models may include Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Exposure Therapy, Family Systems Therapy. Some are specifically trained in these modalities while others may have adopted aspects of these to work in therapy sessions. More than likely a state-licensed person will have knowledge and experience working within a few different models of therapy from their training and experience.
If you plan to look a little more closely at different therapy models, here is a link to understand a little more about some of them.
If you are a little overwhelmed with choosing, some other great ways are through word-of-mouth. In an effort to maintain privacy about your search, you can ask your doctor or ask a friend by saying you have a friend who is interested in finding some support. If you are looking for someone for your child, consider asking the school psychologist for suggestions on how to find a counselor or therapist. If you are a college student, see if your health center has an option for counseling on campus. The internet also has some websites that grade therapists (based on client feedback). Keep in mind that these can be helpful but not necessarily reliable as any random person can give feedback anonymously and you may not get an unbiased report.
Another option to consider when researching the right person is to ensure that you find a properly credentialed professional. In example, the state of NY licenses Art Therapist's under the title Licensed Creative Arts Therapist, or LCAT. You can check for licensing in NY at www.op.nysed.gov to verify a professional status. On a national level, an Art therapist should also be registered with the American Art Therapy Association (you should be able to find the Art Therapist name at www.arttherapy.org)
Once you choose to meet with someone, you will likely have an intake session for your first meeting. This will cover privacy laws, financial/payment expectations, and a little history about you and reasons you are seeking support. This is also an opportunity for you to interview the therapist- to decide if this relationship will be a good fit for both of you. A good therapist will review ways in how they help and will be honest with you in determining if they would be an appropriate support. It is not uncommon for a therapist to refer a person to another therapist in the event they feel someone with more specific knowledge of your needs would be more helpful.
There are a number of counselors and therapists to choose from- if you don't feel your first choice worked for you- it's perfectly okay to move on to another person. If you are interviewing several therapists and none seem like a good fit, you may want to take a closer look at your criteria for choosing and see if maybe you can make a compromise on a couple items.
Stay tuned for more information on choosing the right therapist!
Sheilagh is an Artist and Art Therapist who believes in healing with art and creativity.