Finding the Right Therapist for You
Emotional and behavioral difficulties are real problems which can be treated successfully. Mental health treatment can be useful for adults, children, and families. The two main kinds of mental health treatment are talk therapies and medication therapies. Medications address the biological and chemical aspects of mental illnesses. Talk therapies can teach you to understand and manage symptoms, cope effectively with stress, and make changes in the ways you relate to other people.
Finding the Right Therapist
Finding the therapist who is right for you is vital to successful treatment. It is important to select a therapist with whom you feel comfortable as well as someone who is trained and experienced in assisting with the problems you are having. The following resources can help.
- Your doctor, family members, a member of the clergy, or trusted friends may be able to recommend a therapist.
- MHA’s Information and Referral Service provides information about MHA services and in Westchester County. It can be reached Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at (914) 345-0700 ext. 7303 or email@example.com.
- United Ways’ 2-1-1 offers a searchable database of services in Westchester and several other New York State Counties.
- If you have health insurance with mental health coverage you can contact your insurance company for names of providers who are qualified to treat a particular problem and participate with their insurance plan.
- The internet and Yellow Pages of local telephone books list therapy providers under such headings as “Psychologists,” “Social Workers,” “Psychiatrists”. Therapists are not required to offer proof of their credentials when listing them.
New York State does not regulate the use of the title “therapist” or “psychotherapist.” This means that people who do not have formal training and qualifications can use these titles to describe themselves. It is important to ask a therapist what education, training and experience he or she has, and if he or she is licensed or certified by the state.
Contact the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to learn if a therapist is licensed or certified at (518) 747-3817; or visit the NYSED web site http://www.op.nysed.gov/opsearches.htm which also provides information about the various licensed professions that deliver therapy services http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/.
What to Expect in Therapy
You can expect to be treated with dignity and respect, and to focus on the goals you wish to achieve. During initial sessions it is likely that you and your therapist will get to know each other and identify your goals and ways to achieve them. If medication therapy is recommended, you will be referred to a psychiatrist with whom your therapist will coordinate your treatment.
You may be asked to fill out, review and sign forms that describe the problems you are dealing with and the treatments planned to deal with them. You may find it helpful to keep a copy of these forms.
Your therapist will discuss guidelines regarding fees, using your health insurance, cancelled appointments, missed appointments, telephone calls between meetings, confidentiality, and emergency contacts.
Role of Therapist’s Orientation in Your Therapy
What happens during the course of therapy depends in part upon your therapist’s views of how emotional and behavioral problems develop. It is your right to ask your therapist about his or her theoretical orientation. Three orientations are described below. However, there are a number of others. Many therapists use a combination of these three orientations and others to assist you in identifying and solving problems and making changes in your life.
Regardless of orientation, therapists should be familiar with the current research, know which therapy techniques are most effective in treating your problems, and whether medication should be considered.
Psychodynamically oriented therapists understand emotional and behavioral difficulties as a result of critical experiences early in life. Treatment will help you use awareness of how experiences from the past influence your thoughts, emotions and behaviors to develop more satisfying ways of functioning.
Behaviorally oriented therapists focus on how the current environment influences emotional difficulties and problem behaviors. Treatment generally addresses ways to alter behavior or the environment in order to develop more successful patterns of acting, responding and feeling.
Cognitively oriented therapists understand emotional and behavioral difficulties as the result of learned patterns of thinking and acting. Treatment will help you to identify and change those patterns, usually with a combination of cognitive exercises and behavioral techniques.
Evidence continues to grow regarding which techniques are most useful for specific problems. Research on the human brain continues to provide additional information about the biological bases of emotional and behavioral difficulties, and the effective use of medication.
There are a number of specific therapy techniques used in assisting people with mental health issues. They include:
- Supportive Psychotherapy helps a person become more aware of his or her strengths and accomplishments to improve self-confidence, motivation, and ability to achieve goals.
- Solution-Focused Therapy focuses on very specific difficulties and methods to manage them.
- Trauma Treatment Models use specialized techniques to address the psychological problems associated with a severe psychological trauma resulting from situations such as abuse, rape, a serious accident or other devastating experience.
- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) uses patterns of physical stimulation to reduce more serious anxiety associated with phobias or trauma.
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a system of social and personal skill-building techniques that focus on self-regulation.
- Behavioral Therapy and Modification focuses on changing particular behaviors or patterns of behaviors.
- Play Therapy uses toys, games, dolls, puppets, crayons and paper to help children express, understand, and gain mastery over thoughts and feelings. Child therapists usually meet with parents/caregivers at planned intervals to discuss the child’s progress and develop ways for caregivers to support the child.
- Family Systems Therapy works with family members together to explore and practice ways to improve communication and meet each other’s needs.
Mental health treatment is completely or partially covered by many medical insurance plans including Medicaid, Medicare, Child Health Plus, and private plans. In all cases, it is important that you find out what services are covered. Many insurance companies have lists of therapists who are “in-network,” whom they will reimburse for providing services to their members. If this is the case, it may be necessary to choose a therapist from a list provided by your insurance company. Some insurance companies provide “out-of-network” benefits that may cover a portion of the fee charged by a therapist who is not on their list. Ask your insurance company about your coverage.
Assistance with Problems
There are resources here to help if you or someone you care about has had difficulty with any agency in New York State that provides mental health services. These are not emergency numbers. For emergency numbers, please click here.
Additional Mental Health Information
Many sources provide information about mental health resources and advocacy. For more information contact one of the resources on the list at Mental Health Information.