How do I find a therapist who's right for me?

How do I find a therapist who’s right for me?

Question:
Gail Saltz, M.D.
ABOUT THE EXPERT

Gail Saltz, M.D.

Psychiatrist, columnist, bestselling author, and television commentator Gail Saltz, M.D., has been called "a voice of wisdom and... Read more

Choosing a therapist can be quite tricky. This is because there are many types of trained individuals who are mental health professionals and many styles of treatment. If you think you may want or need medication, you will need to find a psychiatrist because they have an M.D. and can prescribe. They can also do psychotherapy, but which style they use will depend on their training. Psychologists and social workers will also do different kinds of psychotherapy depending on their training. So you need to ask which type of therapy a therapist does.

Psychodynamic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis will help you explore the underlying unconscious conflicts that is creating certain moods or behaviors that are not working well. By gaining insight into the previously hidden root of the problem, you can make changes. Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT) looks at the surface thoughts and behaviors that are bothering you and helps you make direct changes in those thoughts or actions; but it does not explore what lies beneath. There are a whole host of therapies that fall under this style. Many problems can be helped by both kinds of therapy; some problems respond better to one. For instance phobias, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder appear to respond best to CBT. Personality problems, where you keep repeating failing patterns with relationships or ability to work, tend to do best with a psychodynamic or psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

Probably the most important thing is to find a therapist with whom you feel a good fit. I recommend you speak to a few people on the phone first and then see two that you felt good about. Choose a therapist that makes sense to you, one that you feel comfortable with and that you can afford. Therapy can be hard work and take some time but it can be completely life-changing in an ongoing way and more than worth the time and money you invest.

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