Dr. Horton

Types of MH Professionals

Choosing a Therapist

Effectiveness of Therapy

Choosing a Therapist


Millions of Americans have found relief from depression and other emotional difficulties through therapy. However, some people find it hard to get started or stay in therapy. This brief question and answer guide provides basic information to help individuals take advantage of outpatient (non-hospital) psychotherapy.

Why utilize the services of a mental health professional?

People often consider therapy under the following circumstances:

  • Overwhelming, prolonged sense of sadness and helplessness; a lack of hope
  • Difficulty in everyday functioning such as being unable to concentrate on assignments and having job performance suffer as a result
  • Actions which are harmful to self or to others such as drinking too much alcohol, using drugs, and/or becoming overly aggressive
  • Difficulty in handling emotions while dealing with family members and/or close friends
  • Extreme fear of animals, people, situations (flying, etc.), germs, and other types of phobias
  • Desire to learn pain management skills in the absence of improvement medically
  • Help in preparing for surgeries or in coping with long-term or sudden illness
  • Coping with losses such as death of a loved one, loss of a relationship, aging, loss of a job

How do I find a qualified therapist?

Selecting a therapist is highly personal. A professional who works well with one individual may not be a good choice for another. Recommended ways to get referrals to qualified therapists include:

  • Talking to close family members or friends who have had a good experience with therapy
  • Inquiring at your place of worship
  • Asking your primary care physician or other health professional. Tell your doctor what is important to you in choosing a therapist so he or she can make appropriate suggestions.
  • Yellow page listings can be valuable if you take the time to call and discuss your needs briefly with the therapist. Often, you can get a feel for whether or not you are able to converse with this person and you can schedule an introductory session without charge.
  • Searching websites such a Psychologytoday.com. This and other websites will give you an opportunity to quickly review several therapist's profiles by zip codes.

What do I ask a therapist that I am considering using?

Once you have decided upon three or four possible therapists, call and request 5 minutes of their time on the phone or preferably 15 minutes in person. This time will be utilized to ask some questions which will help you make your decision as to the best therapist for you.

Some questions that you might choose to ask include:

  • What type of license do you hold?
  • What college degree do you possess?
  • What is your approach to therapy?
  • What kind of and how much experience in dealing with the type problem for which I am seeking therapy do you have?
  • How long will it take to get an appointment and how often do you normally expect to see clients?
  • What do you expect of the client?
  • What are the standard fees for service, insurance, and payment arrangements?

Be respectful of the therapist’s time and take no more than the time you have requested. Normally, it is best to limit your telephone interview to no more than five minutes. That is why it is best to request a face-to-face interview. In the face-to-face interview, you should expect at least 15 minutes at no charge. Be sure and clarify this prior to the meeting. A face-to-face interview can show you the surroundings that you will be in, help you to easily determine if you will be comfortable working with the therapist, and to view the therapist’s credentialing which should be displayed prominently.

Following your interviews, it is a courtesy to call each person back and let them know that you have either decided to utilize his or her services or not and thank them for their time. Following these guidelines can help you to find someone with whom you are comfortable and who can probably help you to improve your emotional health.

Pamela Horton, Ph.D., specializes in rapid symptom relief and lasting solutions. She offers a complimentary 20-minute interview to anyone seeking her services. Call for an appointment. (512) 931-2162

Information courtesy of Pamela Horton, Ph.D.

Adapted from material published by the American Psychological Association.





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