Finding a therapist…. an adventure!

One of the things I have found most helpful in healing from my experiences with an unethical (bad) therapist was engaging the services of another therapist. I’ve found the corrective type experience invaluable!
As a precursor to working with another therapist I found it necessary to fire my former therapist in person.
Yes, I actually met with him at a public outdoor location said “you’re fired”! It was difficult! I needed to dissolve the sense of obligation I still felt.

That having been accomplished, I began my search for a new therapist.

I started by asking a few friends who I knew had used the services of a Mental Health Professional. The friends I asked said they liked the therapist, saying they were “nice” but not much more and I really had to wonder if they were really getting help from their therapy as nothing was said regarding how they have helped them, and in one case, it was obvious that the therapist “wasn’t helping”. ! I wrote down a few names and did a bit of research on line about them. One didn’t take my insurance plan, and after reading about the other two on “online” descriptions on one of those “find a therapist web sites”, they just didn’t seem to be what I was looking for….I was getting that intuitive “nope” …the “not this one” feel. I was aware of my fear and anxiety in choosing a new therapist after the experiences of my former therapist as I reviewed these profiles, yet they since didn’t click…they didn’t click. Keep searching.

I next started reviewing profiles on the same web site and came up with a few therapists who seemed to fit “well enough” to approach with a phone call. All of these therapists shall remain nameless. The first gentleman I called was an LCSW,. I left a message on his voice mail and he took a couple days to call me back. When we spoke, I explained about the betrayal I felt in reference to the triple billing fiasco (insurance fraud) my former therapist had done….and this guy starts explaining to me, “that I have to understand how insurance companies work” and that “therapists are treated extremely unfairly by HMO’s”!
WTF! Feeling quite shocked, I said to him “your kidding, right?” and then thanked him for his time and calling me back.

Yes that did happen and I didn’t call another therapist for about two weeks!

My next phone call was to a Psychologist. His voicemail message said he was away on vacation, and would be returning in a week…I hung up and wrote a note to call and leave a message later in the week.

The next three were interesting. I found them on line and they were in my provider directory. When I called I was told by two receptionists and one of the therapists that they no longer took my insurance plan and haven’t in awhile..
Why then are they in the “new” provider directory!!!
*Note:This will be the subject of a future blog, but in brief, insurance companies keep providers on their panels to sell their insurance plans. They are casually called “ghost panels” as insurance companies and HMO’s say providers accept your insurance plan, when in fact they do not. When shopping for insurance, you may flip through the directory and see “all the providers they cover”…and like ghosts, they don’t exist . My previous therapist is still listed on my insurance companies panel and was forced to drop himself as a provider two years ago!

I’d like to be able to afford to pay a therapist “out of pocket” for several reasons, but that is not my current financial reality. And given that I have a good insurance plan through work that I contribute to…I do feel I should be able to use the benefits I pay for!

Back to the search…
At this point I was ready to give up and say forget therapy…the universe must be sending me some giant sign that I should stay away form therapy and therapists… just learn to cope with the fact that life has it’s ups and downs… and deal with it!

It had been a week since I called that psychologist, so I placed a call to him and he actually picked up his phone. After a 15 minute phone interview I found that he took my insurance plan, seemed intelligent, knowledgeable, understanding, kind and fair. I felt comfortable speaking with him I chose to make an appointment with him….or at least try. Our schedules just did not click…he could see me in one of two mornings appointment slots a week, but had no other available times. I told him I really appreciated him taking his time to speak with me and that I would keep him “on my list”…I hung up feeling a bit disappointed, but…at least I felt my faith was slightly restored that there was someone out there that could assist me.

I next called a therapist who was a recommendation form a co-worker. I spoke with a receptionist that assured me someone would call me back “within the hour”….5 days later I called them back!
Again, the receptionist said someone would call me back. I asked “are you sure?” She said “yes”. I finally got a call back the next day. I asked to speak with or set up an interview appointment with therapist “X” . She took some basic info and said she would check the appointment schedule and get back to me later in the day. When she called back several hours later, she said …ok…you’re all set up with Therapist “Y”. I said…”but I asked to see therapist”X, not therapist “Y””. She says “well all our therapists are highly qualified”….
I was silent for about 10 seconds until she asked, “are you there”? Tired of the pleasantries of saying “thank for your time”….I laughed and hung up the phone!

This whole process was getting rather humorous on a certain level, but on the other I was quite frustrated and still reeling from my experiences with my former therapist and in life, where I felt ignored and what I wanted and needed didn’t matter.

I do matter! My wants and needs are important! It’s time to take care of me!
I searched through some on line profiles again. I increased my “search range” (a key in life!) to a bit further away (distance) from my targeted market area and found an LCSW who I really liked the profile of…I was getting that intuitive click…the inner “yes”
I sent an email through the on line link and asked for this therapist to call me back. I received an email back by the next morning asking what a good time to reach me would be. I emailed the timeframe back and the therapist called back within the timeframe I gave.
We spoke for a bit on the phone and I felt a sense of safety and confidence. I wasn’t overwhelmed with feelings of pretentious compassion, I didn’t feel like I was taking up this persons time, I just felt “safe”… So I asked for an appointment and we found a slot at a time that worked with my schedule. This slot remains “my time slot” today, even though we only meet about once a month now.

After my first session with this therapist I knew intuitively I had made a good choice. The sense of safety I felt over the phone was present in person. I felt like I could tell this person anything and would not be judged or criticized. I felt completely accepted for exactly where I was at, at the time. I felt understood and listened to. I felt heard and seen. ( vs. observed) My hyper-vigilance and anger didn’t threaten this therapist. My rapid speech and “need to get it out” free flow of thoughts were “taken-in” and modulated (sounds weird, but I could experience this therapist doing just that.)
Overall I experienced a huge sense of relief! I found someone who I could work with and provided that feeling of “home” I had never really experienced before.

I’ll continue in another blog of what experiencing “good therapy” has been like.

For now, I want to urge those of you who have been through an experience with “not so good” therapy to keep searching. Many people after an experience with bad or harmful therapy will never go back. In my findings, even trying to go back, can push a client even further away!

Stay with it and keep interviewing …be selective….there are good therapists out there, few in number, but they are there. Different types of therapists will work differently for different types of clients.
Remember, the singular most important parameter in choosing a therapist is not method or technique used, or the credentials of a licensed provider( please do make sure the therapist is licensed!), but ensuring the therapeutic alliance,the “fit” or bond between you and your therapist, is a positive one. Without a good “working” relationship, therapy will not be helpful.
Therapy can be challeging work! You should feel at least a bit better after a awhile and have an inner sense that you are making progress. If not….hit the search button again!

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