Selecting a mental health provider
The very nature of psychological counseling requires a high
degree of trust and credibility. Seeking out a stranger with whom
to share a deeply personal problem can be a difficult and scary
task. This is complicated further by the popular and media notions
of therapists, who are usually portrayed as eccentric persons who
often appear to need more help than their clients. Allow us to
offer some practical advice.
The best bet is to rely on a referral from someone you trust, such as a friend, doctor, or minister/priest. At NWPR, most of our referrals come from current/ past patients and medical doctors with whom we have worked in the past. Don't be afraid to discuss this issue of mental health referral with your doctor. Most physicians welcome the opportunity to refer their patients to qualified specialists when the issue is outside of their expertise. At NWPR, we work closely with physicians by providing diagnostic consultations and assuming responsibility for the counseling portion of an overall treatment plan while supporting the role of your physician as your primary care provider.
If a referral from a friend or doctor is not available, you must do some homework on your own. You may wish to contact your state's psychological association, since most agencies provide referral services to professionals in your area. The Washington State Psychological Association's contact website is HERE.
Using the Internet can be a risky method of finding a mental health provider. Flashy advertisements or web pages do not guarantee quality of service. Be sure to call around to several potential providers and speak with them personally before making your decision. You may want to give a brief description of the problem and ask how they might approach the issue. In some busy offices, you may wish to schedule an initial consultation to chat in person or through telehealth, but keep in mind that having such a meeting does not mean you are committing to ongoing care. Whether or not you continue and the specifics of this (e.g., how often, for how long, what techniques are used, expected costs, etc.) can all be reviewed in that visit to your satisfaction. Use both your reasoning and emotional comfort level as guides when selecting someone to see.
When speaking with a provider, consider these warning signs as possible reasons not to select that particular person:
You have an extraordinarily difficult time reaching them.
Your calls are never returned.
S/he seems to be pushing a particular treatment without a full evaluation of your problem.
On the other hand, it is usually a good sign when a provider responds quickly and personally to your call, and he or she seems to speak competently and comfortably about your problem. If you have particular concerns about religious values, billing practices, etc., don't hesitate to bring these up. This is your time to evaluate the therapist before he or she evaluates you.