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Filtering by Tag: talk therapy

How to Choose a Great Therapist or Counselor

Emily Porta

There are a ton of therapists and counselors in Orange County for you to scour the Internet for, so how do you find a GREAT one? I recommend you ask some questions in order to assess. This short article lists just a few helpful questions, in no particular order (please note, the terms “therapist” and “counselor” are used interchangeably).

1. What were they like the first time you reached out to them?

Were they warm, informative and open to answering any of your questions? Did they work to provide you with fees and a schedule that worked for you or provide you with resources that better met your needs? Your first interaction with a therapist is an indication of how it will be to work with them. Therapists are not “one size fits all” so if you sensed a disconnection it’s probably safe to say they did too. Thank them for their time and move on.

2. How did you feel when talking and meeting with the therapist?

Did you feel comfortable sharing? Did they use language that was free of judgment and criticism while providing support or was there a sense of shame and embarrassment when you shared? A therapist’s job is to create an emotionally safe environment for you to talk about whatever it is you feel you want help with and if that’s not the case, it’s time to move on.

3. Can the therapist tell you how they plan to work with you to meet your goals?

A question to ask is “Have you worked with ______ (ie: couples and infidelity; anxiety; feeling like I have no direction, etc.) before?” Followed with, “And what are some of the ways that you have helped people like me?” If you get a clear answer, even one that you don’t really understand (ie: “I utilize a structured technique called Gottman Method Couples Therapy that has 35+ years of research to prove it’s success.”) and it’s followed by, “And I’d love to meet with you and hear more about what’s going on so we can work together to decide a course of treatment,” then you’re probably in good, competent hands.

4. What is the counselor’s general philosophy or modality when working with people?

Counselors all have a specific philosophy when working with people and should be able to clearly and concisely share that with you. It may sound something like “I am a solution-focused therapist, which means I focus on identifying your strengths, looking at times when your problems is not as intense, and helping you find solutions that line up with your goals.”

5. Is the therapist licensed or are they an intern? 

A licensed therapist has completed their master’s degree in psychology, social work or marriage and family therapy, worked as an intern to gain 2,500-3,500 hours, and successfully passed their state board licensing exams (which are not easy). An intern is someone who has gained their master’s degree in the above-mentioned fields but is currently working on gaining their hours and often times are less expensive than licensed clinicians. There are phenomenal interns providing quality therapy services and it’s up to you to decide what level of professional works for you.

6. Does the counselor specialize in any treatment type or do they “help everyone?”

If you’re looking for help for your marriage, find someone who specializes in working with couples. It doesn’t make sense to go to a therapist who specializes in working with adults battling with anxiety, if you're looking for grief and loss support due a recent death in the family. Find a therapist who specializes in what you want help with.

7. What is the counselor’s social media policy?

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, the list goes on and on and in a world where most professionals have an online presence, it’s imperative that you know your therapist’s social media policy. Most counselors discourage clients from providing any sort of online reviews or testimonials as it breaks your own confidentiality and tells the world that you’re seeing a therapist. Also, it’s part of a counselor’s ethical duty to not engage in any sort of relationship with a client outside of the therapeutic one, so “friending” them on social media would be a no-no. It is quite alright to “like” their social media pages, as they typically host articles and tips appropriate for clients but choose wisely before commenting and identifying yourself publicly.

8. Have there been any complaints filed with the board against the therapist?

Find out who their governing board is (ie: American Psychological Association, Board of Behavioral Sciences, etc.) and look up their status. This is simple, as you can search by their license or intern number, which should be clearly stated somewhere on the their website, business card or email signature. If there were any complaints, have they been resolved? Are their licenses pending? 

I hope this has been helpful I know that searching for a therapist can be daunting when you're not sure what to ask and what sets GREAT therapists apart from everyone else. 

Leave a comment below and share your questions about how to choose a GREAT therapist or counselor.

Tell Me Your Story

Emily Porta

A man and a woman sat in the row in front of me on the plane home. For the next hour I picked up on snippets of their conversation. They bonded at first when they discovered they had both gone skydiving. They shared their experiences as though no one else but the other that had gone through that experience, could possibly understand. The conversation continued and with each story they got deeper and deeper into their connection. The man shared how his daughter had Bi-Polar disorder and refused to get the help she needed. He talked of the pain and fears that come with an adult child struggling through mental illness. The woman shared how she survived on $1,000 a month but how she was happy. She was single, hated children and understood what it was like to struggle with mental illness. They both had a drink, toasted to the skies, got off the plane and stood at the baggage claim on opposite ends, never acknowledging each other again. 

Even amongst strangers we want to be known. And in the sharing of the story, you never know how it will change the other person. But what I find most important is how when you share your story, it changes you. You get a new perspective. You create the language associated with the story. You can be the victim or the survivor. You might be successful or lucky. You get to choose how the story is told. You get to decide if it is told with compassion.

Often at the second session in therapy I will ask a client how they felt after their first session. Responses I hear generally are summed up with "it felt good to share." "It was nice to get it off my chest." It is as if in the telling of the story, there is an exchange of energy where the storyteller because lighter and more free. What a gift to be able to tell your story. Some have no one to listen. Or those that have a listener can feel judged.

Therapy is that space of genuine transformation. You tell, I listen and as the story is told, your life changes. It may be slow at first but months down the road, you don't recognize the old perspectives and language you once used. I would love to hear your story

I was planning to do that...

Emily Porta

I decided to write a blog and noticed that...ahh! it has been a month since the last time I blogged! What? How did this happen? Where did the time go?

Ever notice yourself saying this same thing to well intended plans? I think this happens to us a lot and intentions get lost in the day to day of living. It was a nice reminder to me to continue practicing intentional living. All this means is to be mindful or aware of my thoughts, feelings, behaviors and choices. 

Have you been intending on starting therapy? What is stopping you? Why wait? Trust me. I see people that come to me years after an issue started, stating "I meant to come sooner, but I thought it would get better or go away." So like my blog, instead of expecting it to write itself, I just decided to share my thoughts right now. No need to put it off. Let go of shame or fear and trust what you want to do that is good for you!

Best wishes as your intentions become reality!

What is there to talk about?

Emily Porta

Here's a tip:

Ever thought about going to counseling, knowing that you could use some help, but haven't been sure where to start? You may be wondering what to say? How do you even start the conversation?

Well, you just answered your question! Not sure where to start, then just say that. That is a spring board into so many feelings. As a therapist, I am there to wade through the ambiguity and help you find what is there to say, not to let you drown in feeling lost. So when you don't know what to say, that is simply saying enough.