Whether you get a recommendation for a therapist from your primary care doctor, a friend, or your insurance company, finding out about his or her background and training can help you feel comfortable with your choice. Here are some questions to ask before settling on a therapist:
- What's your training (i.e., what certification or degrees do you hold)?
- How long have you worked in this field?
- What kinds of treatment or therapy do you think might help me?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of different approaches to treatment, including medications?
- How does the type of treatment you offer work?
- What are the chances that treatment will succeed?
- How soon should I start feeling better?
- How will we assess my progress?
- What should I do if I don't feel better?
- How much will treatment cost?
It's hard for a therapist to give precise answers to some of these questions, because no single therapist or type of treatment is best for everyone. But there are some general responses you should be looking for: The therapist should easily be able to describe his or her formal training and certification, for example. And while there's a tendency for mental health professionals to offer only the particular type of psychotherapy that they do best, it's a good sign if the person can describe the merits and drawbacks of different types of treatment, including ones he or she doesn't do.
It's also a good idea to ask your therapist to periodically check in with you about your progress. If you don't feel there's been improvement after several months, consider getting a second opinion.
Understanding Depression, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, contains additional advice and recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of depression. Purchase it here.