Sometimes you just need someone to talk to. But between counselors, therapists, psychiatrists and more, just finding the right person can seem daunting.Dr. Joseph Varley, chair of the department of psychiatry at Summa Health System, fills us in on how to find the best therapist for your needs.
Q. What’s the best way to begin?
A. Usually somebody knows somebody who knows somebody, and that’s often a good place to start. Your primary care provider can be a valuable resource in terms of helping direct and navigate, too. Just ask for a referral.
Q. What’s the difference between psychiatrists and psychologists, or counselors and therapists?
A. Psychiatrists have gone through medical school and are licensed to prescribe medication, whereas psychologists and others who provide counseling aren’t physicians and can’t prescribe meds. Sometimes — though not always — those who can prescribe are less focused on psychotherapy and talking.
Q. How can a patient know which is best for them?
A. Some people just want a medicine that’ll help. They don’t want to talk. Conversely, others want to be able to talk and to free themselves of what’s in their mind. A doctor who just wants to give them medication isn’t a good fit because they’re not going to be equipped to listen.
Q. Are there differences between types of talk therapy?
A. There are as many varieties of patients as there are treatment options. Some therapists address here-and-now conflicts to help patients shift their perspectives. Others view current problems as being best understood by looking at past experience. If you’re not sure, ask, and give your therapist the chance to explain themselves.
Q. What’s the most important thing to keep in mind?
A. I really believe you have to rely on your instincts. If you don’t feel comfortable with somebody, it’s unlikely they’re going to be able to help you.
Q. In the search for the right doctor, how can would-be patients keep from getting discouraged?
A. It can be very challenging to define who’s a good mental health professional to see, but be persistent, and don’t give up. There’s somebody out there for you.