by: Jack N. Singer, Ph.D.
Is your life turned upside down? Are you suffering through
unbearable emotional stress, personally or in a relationship? Have
you begun to hate your job or career and see no way out? Are your
kids driving you crazy and you feel like a failure as a parent? Do
you have chronic illnesses and seem to live in doctors' offices? Are
you having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Do you have
trouble concentrating and is your memory failing you? Life is full
of dark potholes and unexpected hardships. It's often very hard to
find your way into the light without the help of a professional.
But how do you go about finding the right help? All of the helping
professionals are referred to as "therapists." How do you know if
the therapist you need should be a Licensed Psychologist,
Psychiatrist, Clinical Social Worker, Marriage Counselor,
Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist or Family Therapist? All of these
specialists are referred to as "therapists." The Licensed
Psychologist has earned a Ph.D. (9 or 10 or more years of college
training and an internship) where the Clinical Social Worker and
Family Therapist or Marriage Counselors are usually Masters level
therapists. Psychiatrists are physicians who work primarily with
emotional issues that require medication to manage the symptoms.
Regardless of the title of the therapist, make certain that he/she
is currently licensed in your State, because the titles
"Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist," for example, can be used by
Regardless of the education and experience level of the therapist,
however, you must be completely comfortable with that expert,
because your comfort level is an essential ingredient in successful
How Can I Determine My Comfort Level with the Therapist Before I
Make an Appointment?
Choose a therapist who is willing to speak with you briefly over the
phone before you commit to an appointment. Unfortunately, these
people are often few and far between, but finding a therapist who is
willing, you can get a feel for the his/her listening skills,
sensitivity, and concern. You want to work with a therapist who
makes you feel comfortable and safe for you to divulge information
that perhaps you haven't divulged to anyone before. I am an Orange
County therapist, but I also conduct phone therapy with people all
over the U.S. and I offer every prospective client a free 30 minute
phone consultation in order for you to feel completely comfortable
with me before you make an appointment.
Experience Level of the Therapist
Find a professional who has treated people with problems similar to
those you face. Often a therapist focuses on specific issues, such
as eating disorders, sexual dysfunction, anger management therapy,
mood disorders and even sport psychology issues. That's another
reason why you should interview the therapist on the phone before
making an appointment. Don't be afraid to tell him/her about your
issues and candidly ask if she/he has had experience helping people
with these issues.
All therapists have strict ethical guidelines they must follow,
including guarding the confidentiality of everything you discuss
with them. Before telling your situation to your therapist, be sure
to ask her/him what situations could occur where your
confidentiality will not be strictly adhered to. For example, every
state has confidentiality limiting guidelines regarding child or
elder abuse situations, determinations by the therapist that the
client is at risk for suicide or legal cases where the client wants
the therapist to testify. Ask the important confidentiality
questions before telling the therapist your story.
Most competent therapists will give you an informed consent sheet
spelling out the limits of confidentiality.
The Therapist's Treatment Style
Therapists have certain methods and orientations. Some use cognitive
behavioral therapy, for example, which involves changing your
thinking patterns to reduce your stress and specific problems. Some
therapists practice styles where they do little talking and some
work very actively with the client during the session, getting
involved with providing information, guidance and interpretations.
Ask the therapist what his/her orientation is to be sure it matches
If you feel comfortable with the therapist's talking and listening
style, you determine that she/he has the experience to help you with
your specific issues, believe that he/she will maintain strict
confidentiality of the information you provide, uses a treatment
style that suits you and the therapist has appointment times that
will accommodate your work/childcare schedule, then go ahead and
make that first appointment.
Start Feeling Better Right Away!
Call me for a FREE 30 minute phone consultation.
If you're looking for a face to face appointment, I am an Orange
County Psychologist and would be happy to meet with you in person;
however, I also conduct phone therapy with clients all over the
U.S., so don't hesitate to call even if don't live near Orange
Jack N. Singer, Ph.D.