Help!  I need Somebody! Help…!

This is the second installment of a four part series. In the first post we covered some ideas related to how families can begin exploring ways to get help and how to know when professional help is needed. In this issue we will explore some strategies that can help ensure you find the right the right therapist to help you and your family given your specific needs.

How do we find the right counselor or therapist for us?

Among the best places to start is within your current circle of family, friends and caregivers.  Ask friends who you know are in therapy if they like their therapist.  In her 2017 New York Times article, How to Find the Right Therapist, Marissa Miller suggested that If they do, find out what qualities they like about them and ask your friends to ask their therapists for referral lists.

She went on to suggest that find a psychologist, ask your physician or another health professional. Call your local or state psychological association. Consult a local university or college department of psychology. Ask family and friends. Contact your area community mental health center. Inquire at your church or synagogue. Or, use APA’s Psychologist Locator service.

Jane Ryan, co-founder of Ryan Therapy Services, based in Tacoma Washington, explained that there are some major sites that help clients find therapists in their area. The biggest one is Psychology Today. You simply put your zip code in and the therapists in your area come up. If you are looking for a therapist who specializes in a specific issue or problem or works with teens or the elderly, or couples, you can also put that in the search.  Jane suggests another simple search that many overlook. Simply plug search commands into google — something like, “therapists who specialize in… located in…”

Then you can view therapists’ websites and read in detail about their work. Jane believes any therapist worth going to will be open to a brief phone conversation during which the client can “interview” them or a session that allows the client to meet the therapist in person and ask questions to see if the match is good. Many therapists offer a short session (30 minutes) as an “interview” without charge; others offer a full session.

Another reoccurring concept that surfaced while researching this topic is the idea of looking for chemistry. Treat your first appointment like a job interview. Before making your first call, look at a therapist’s online presence on Yelp-like databases like Vitals, ZocDoc and Healthgrades. Don’t forget to do a quick scan of social media too! There will be some clues based on publicly available information that may help you determine who you might enjoy working with.

As you begin to interact with your counseling candidates ask yourself questions that will help you discern whether or not you can have a productive long-term relationship with them. Ask questions like:

Do I feel comfortable with this person? Do they really list to me? Is he or she asking enough questions? Has the therapist asked about your goals– how you want your life to be? Do you feel satisfied with the counselor’s resources? Do you feel comfortable with their level of knowledge and understanding in your areas of need? Does what the therapist says make sense to you and the rest of your family? Does it help you or not?

Shop on Amazon and Help Families and Friends of CHOP

One way to save time and work efficiently is to conduct your initial interview with the therapist candidates on the phone for a few minutes and ask what he or she enjoys most about counseling. Ask what school the therapist attended, ensuring proper accreditation as opposed to an online certificate. Ask about specialties, noting how comfortable the response is when you share your issue. Ask about licenses and look them up to be sure the therapist hasn’t incurred any infractions (this information is available at state licensing boards like this one in Pennsylvania). Finally, has the therapist ever attended therapy? Some suggest that it is important to work with a therapist who has actually worked through issues with a therapist. This is important for several reasons, one of which is this ensures they understand the needs of a therapy client, first-hand.

In the next installment we will explore ways to manage costs related to family therapy and support.  If you are new to the journey of care you may feel relieved to know that there are some very reasonably prices solutions you can fit into your budget. No matter how stretched you are financially you can find effective emotional support for you and your family.

Tom Nieman is a Founder and President of The LIV Foundation and a financial services industry veteran. The best place to reach Tom is on LinkedIn at

or on email at

If you want to learn more, need help or know someone who needs help check out the following resources:

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Department of Social Work and Spiritual Care:

The LIV Foundation:

References used for this blog post:

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