Choosing a Therapist
By Deborah Reeves, MGPGP, LPC, CGP

Finding the best trained therapist is an excellent investment in one's future. Effective psychotherapy can help resolve conflict(s) and can greatly assist in helping all people to gain the emotional and cognitive tools necessary to better solve future problems.

Making a conscious decision to be in psychotherapy is the first step and perhaps not such an easy task because it can bring to mind the awareness of uncomfortable feelings, thoughts and ideas about the problems at hand and about being in therapy. It is a good idea to take the time to choose a therapist thoughtfully and with care. Why? Because it is essential that you feel comfortable and confident with the therapist you select. It is important that your therapist is compassionate, sincere and genuine but these attributes are not sufficient in and of themselves. Well-trained therapists are open and able to work with all emotions for example, feelings such as jealousy, love, disgust, hate, dread, anxiety, shame and more. It is also helpful when you feel you are being heard. Working with a therapist who has good listening skills and who responds in a clear, genuine and honest way with out being superficial is paramount to good treatment.

Well trained therapists also know the difference between 'counseling' and 'psychotherapy'. Being 'counseled' means giving suggestions and advice which has its place when for instance someone is abusing drugs. More often than not people seek therapy when they have tried to take friend's advice and it simply doesn't work because of underlying emotional issues and conflicts that can have an unconscious strong hold. Meaning, that repeated patterns of behavior and responses stop emotional needs from being met affecting psychological growth and development. Psychotherapy assists in helping with the understanding of conflicts that are often hidden, out of awareness so that old familiar responses can be better recognized, acknowledged, and mastered. Instead of seeking other's opinions or advice patients can develop and resolve problems in a way that fits who they are and not in accordance to someone else's criteria.

Competent therapists are most often open to any questions you want to ask them. It is worthwhile to ask questions about their training, practice and experience of personal therapy. The last is an important factor in determining the treatment most likely to offer successful results. Why? Because therapists who learn thoroughly about their own emotional self will not be biased, and will have resolution and understanding of their own unconscious conflicts. This ensures that the treatment will be about your issues and not the therapists. Due to the highly complex and subjective nature of learning about the self(s) internal and relational world, insight-oriented psychotherapy is best experienced in order for it to be thoroughly understood.

Over the past decade many academic programs in the mental health field stopped the requirement of students experiencing their own course of psychotherapy. Instruction into insight-oriented psychodynamic individual and group therapy is minimal at best. License to practice and 'academic' training is not synonymous to a sound or solid 'training' in psychotherapy. Today, most therapist's who practice psychodynamic psychotherapy and insight-oriented psychotherapy have usually gone through an accredited post-graduate training program which mandates personal psychotherapy and/or psychoanalysis with an average of two to seven additional years in training.

The following is an explanation of academic titles that qualify for licensing at the state level.
  • PsyD's - Doctorate in Psychology with a clinically based training
  • PhD - Doctorate in Psychology with research based training
  • MSW - Masters in Social Work
  • LCSW - Licensed Clinical Social Worker
  • LPC - Licensed Professional Counselors
  • MD - Psychiatrist
  • CGP - Professionals who have training accredited by the American Group Psychotherapy Association will be registered with the National Registry of Certified Group Psychotherapists, CGP.
The term 'therapist' and 'psychoanalyst' are not legally defined in the majority of the states of America. Anyone can give themselves these titles. There are professionals who carry a licensed professional title (listed above) who do have acquired extended training in psychodynamic psychotherapy and psychoanalysis from accredited organizations.

It is strongly advised to schedule several consultations before deciding upon the best therapist to work with you. Recommendations from well known friends, relatives, clergy is one way to ensure that you will get optimum treatment. The system of managed care signs up individuals who will work for the least amount of money and simply assign to you someone from their 'sign up' list. Managed care does not interview any of the therapists to whom they send you so be careful. 'Mental-health' is simply afforded the least within a huge 'health system' and has done for years and years. Those wishing to preserve full privacy, full control and full protection of their treatment often elect to pay out of pocket. For more information on the practices of managed care click on

Five Warning Signs of Unhealthy Therapist Behavior:
Therapeutic misadventures are not uncommon. You need to watch for:
  • A therapist who is silent and removed since he/she may not be able to gain an emotional connection with the patient.
  • A therapist who talks too much, preventing the patient from learning to explore his/her own mind.
  • A therapist who talks about personal issues.
  • A therapist who offers opinions may appear warm and welcoming, but this may have seductive and exploitive results.
  • A therapist who touches patients in an unwarranted fashion is also exploitive.
By understanding a little more about training, academic qualification, licensing and knowing more what to look out for and perhaps what to avoid, I hope you will be better equipped in finding a good therapeutic match.

  © 2007 Deborah Reeves MGPGP, CGP, LPC