Tanya Ruckstuhl Valenti, LICSW

Finding a Therapist Who Won't Make You Crazy(er)

By Tanya Ruckstuhl-Valenti LICSW, MSW

I found my mechanic exactly the way I recommend people find their therapist: I asked someone who knew better than me how to assess (the local auto parts guy). If you have a friend who is a therapist, ask them to recommend someone. If asking a friend to recommend a therapist feels too personal to reveal, you can also ask your doctor, the E.A.P. provider (employee assistance program) at your job, your church leader, or anyone else whose perspective and judgment you trust. You can also use the old and frequently true line “I’m asking for a friend of mine.”

The internet can also be a good place to do preliminary research: these days many therapists have websites with their practice specialty, philosophy, professional memberships, as well as articles they have written or conferences they have spoken at. If your perspective therapist blogs (you can check out my trauma blog at www.seattletherapist.wordpress.com ) you can get an even better sense of his or her professional and personal approach to mental health.

Be wary of therapists who treat every mental health condition under the sun: aside from those who practice in rural areas, most skillful therapists specialize to become truly expert at treating a limited range of diagnosis. I myself do not treat patients with axis II disorders (borderline personality disorder, hystrionic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder) because I am not good at it. My specialty is anxiety disorders (PTSD, phobias, general anxiety disorder), trauma, and ADHD.

Next, call a few therapists who seem like a potential fit and spend a few minutes talking on the phone. Do they sound like someone you can work with? Are they warm? cont'd

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