Boulder Psychotherapy Institute

Advanced Training in Applied Existential Psychotherapy (AEP) — since 1989

An Experiential Psychodynamic Gestalt Approach   •   Boulder, Colorado

Need Help Finding a Therapist?

by Reed Lindberg, M.A., L.P.C., and Betty Cannon, Ph.D.

Contact Reed at 720 635 4428 for personalized guidance or send him an email.

Here's some guidance in using our online directory, Find a Local Therapist. There are many talented psychotherapists in the Boulder/Denver area. Many of them appear in our BPI "Find a Local Therapist" directory as well as in other local and national directories.

The question is how to choose the right therapist for you. From our perspective, picking a therapist is a human process. It is a process of communication, interaction and empathic resonance between client and therapist. Most studies show that it is the relationship between the client and therapist, rather than the therapist's particular methodology, which is the most important ingredient in the success of therapy.

Before you commit emotional resources, time and money to a particular therapist, you will want to know as well as you can that you will feel comfortable, safe, challenged, confident and willing to persist in the often difficult task ahead. For people seeking individual therapy, the process is often a journey into the interior of the soul. For couples or families, it may be a journey into the heart of relationship issues. Or for those seeking group therapy, it may involve discovering the nuances of the self in the presence of others. Finding an excellent guide for this journey may be one of the most important choices you make.

Places to Look for a Therapist: If you are starting out cold, and don't have strong recommendations from someone you trust, it is probably a good idea to go to a resource that offers a picture and some information about the therapist. Therapist directories and therapist websites such as this one offer this. Public talks and workshops, as well as articles, books and essays by particular therapists, may give you an idea of the flavor of their work. Recommendations from friends is another possibility. Because of the personal and confidential nature of therapy, psychotherapists cannot publish recommendations from actual persons, or direct you to someone who has worked with them in the past. But you may have friends who are happy with their therapists and willing to discuss their experience with you.

Just be aware that this will be your therapist, not theirs. You will need to make your decision based on the therapist's description of his or her expertise, your particular needs and preferences - and probably most importantly on your own impression of the therapist from phone and personal contact. It can be a good idea to interview several therapists before making a decision.

Making Contact by Phone: Once you have the names of several therapists, the first thing to do is to call them on the phone. You can learn a lot from the warmth of a person's voice and the therapist's generous attitude in sharing information, even information about other therapists he or she knows who might work well with you on your particular issue. Not every therapist is perfect for every client or has the expertise to work with every issue. Your potential therapist should be willing to spend a little time finding out about you and what you are looking for and answering any initial questions you may have about the therapist's modality and style. You may also want to ask about fees, insurance matters, and whether or not the therapist offers a free initial meeting.

Some therapists offer a free initial full session to find out if this is a good fit and will make a good working relationship. It takes a full session to get a sense of the feel of the relationship and whether the therapist's expertise is what you need. Not just for you, but for the therapist as well. If the therapist does offer a free initial meeting, be sure to go to the session and be on time.

Some therapists take the perspective that it is important to charge for the first session or offer only a short introductory free meeting. It is probably better to pay for a full session if you get a good sense of the therapist on the phone in order to give yourself the best chance to find out if this will be a good fit.

Meeting the Therapist: What happens in an ideal initial interview? Your therapist would spend some time orienting you and making you comfortable. He or she would quickly handle any paperwork that is necessary, such as the mandatory state disclosure form. Then he or she would be interested in knowing what you want to accomplish, what is bothering you, or how you think you can use some help and in what areas. He or she would give you a chance to ask questions. If you are going to continue in therapy, you should feel that you can ask your therapist any question at all about skills, training, insights, methods of working and so on.

The therapist may also do a little work with you or take a brief family history in order to get a better sense of what you need and to give you a sense of the work that will follow. If this is couples or family therapy, the therapist will want to hear from everyone involved and perhaps to get a feel for how people interact with each other. If it is group therapy, there will probably be an initial individual interview to prepare you for the group and to get a sense of whether you will benefit more from group or individual therapy.

You will also want to be clear about fees and insurance filing, if you plan to use insurance. Though there is no necessary correlation between fees and competence, therapists who have been in the field longer and worked more successfully with clients for a longer period of time tend to charge higher fees. New therapists may also appeal because of their enthusiasm and knowledge of the latest developments in the field. They may also charge lower fees, but this probably should not be the deciding factor in your choice of a therapist.

Sometimes it is better to see an excellent therapist with whom you truly resonate every other week than a less compatible therapist weekly. Of course, this may depend on your issues and your relationship resources outside of therapy. If you are in a severe crisis or want to do deep level psychoanalytic work, sessions several times week would be appropriate. Sometimes therapists have a limited number of sliding fee scale slots available for clients who cannot afford their full fees. You should feel free to ask about this if you have the need. Group therapy is generally less expensive than individual therapy and may be an excellent option, especially for people wanting to work on relationship issues.

Credentials and Training: You may want to know what kind of education, training or license your therapist has. In Colorado, there are several varieties of licensed psychotherapists. These include licensed psychologists, licensed professional counselors, licensed clinical social workers, licensed marriage and family therapists, and psychiatrists. Although only people with doctorates may be licensed psychologists, some people with doctorates may have one of the other state licenses. Psychiatrists are physicians who have done their residencies in mental institutions or mental health clinics. They often have other training and may do psychotherapy as well as prescribe medication. For a more detailed discussion of licenses and credentials recognized by the state board, see our Information on Credentials page.

Unlicensed psychotherapists may practice in Colorado by registering with the State Grievance Board. Often these are therapists with advanced degrees who are working under supervision toward hours for licensure. They may also be therapists with other kinds of training who will never receive licenses, or they may be therapists with advanced degrees who choose not to be licensed. Your therapist is required by the State Board to give you a "Disclosure Statement" to sign. This includes a description of the therapist's education and professional training. Please feel free to discuss this with your therapist if you have questions.

Type of education or advanced degree does not necessarily determine whether a therapist will be the best choice for you. Often post-graduate school or post-medical school training and years of experience play an important role. Sometimes therapists with no formal graduate education have many years training and experience in a particular modality. For example, certified addictions counselors do not necessarily have advanced degrees in psychology or counseling. If you have a problem that requires specialized work it may be important to look for a counselor with particular kinds of eucation and training. For example, if you are dealing with marriage issues, you might want to find a therapist with interest, training and experience in this particular area. If you have experienced severe trauma, a person with extensive training in this area would be most helpful. Or you might want to choose an addictions counselor for problems with overuse of alcohol or other substances.

When you get home from the initial interview, it would be a good idea to re-read the therapist's credentials from the disclosure form, looking not only for formal credentials but for in-depth training and years of experience. Training beyond graduate school in a particular methodology or methodologies, such as psychoanalysis or Gestalt therapy or trauma work, often helps a therapist be more grounded in the therapeutic process. Some of this training involves years of in depth training. Other modalities represent weekend workshops taken to learn particular techniques. It may be a good idea to get a sense of what is involved in your therapist's training. Often therapists have training in a variety of techniques or approaches to particular problems. For example, a good individual therapist may also be trained in couples and family therapy.

We are currently asking experienced local therapists who practice various modalities of therapy to write brief descriptions for our Books/Articles about Therapy page, which will include reviews and recommendations for published books and articles on various approaches to psychological issues. Much information on treatment approaches is available on the internet or in the library. Of course, feel free to ask your therapist any questions you have about training or credentials.

Should I Choose a Therapist from My Managed Care Provider List? You may want to consider whether to choose a therapist from your insurance provider list. This may be the least expensive route to finding a therapist, but it is not always the best. Some managed care therapists have huge case loads and limits on the number of sessions they can provide. You will want to check this out ahead of time with your provider. Even if the number of sessions is liberal, there is also the matter of whether or not you want your mental health diagnosis on record and whether this person is the best therapist for you. Check out the therapist's information on our therapist directory Find a Local Therapist, or one of the other similar directories. If you decide to select a therapist outside of your insurance provider list, he or she may still be covered (at a different rate). Licensed psychotherapists (or unlicensed psychotherapists working under supervision with licensed psychotherapists) might be covered at the lower rate (say 50% rather than 80%). The advantage to you is that you can choose from a wider list of therapists and perhaps work for a longer number of sessions.

Good Luck and Feel Free to Call or Email Us! Therapy can be a life changing process. Choosing a therapist who is a good fit for you and the issues you want to work with is a critical first step. If you have questions about Find a Local Therapist or want to discuss issues around finding a therapist further, please feel free to call Reed at 720 635 4428 or 303 494 0393. If you have a specialized need, we can often help you find an appropriate therapist by sending an email to our Networking List of over 600 local therapists. Reed will forward your request to the list (not using your name or descriptive personal information, of course) and then forward appropriate responses to you at your request.

About the Authors: Betty Cannon, Ph.D., and Reed Lindberg, M.A., L.P.C., have practiced psychotherapy in Boulder for over thirty and twenty years respectively. Both believe that client-therapist fit is the most important ingredient in making therapy a successful journey for both.

Betty is a licensed psychologist and certified Gestalt therapist who works with individuals, couples and groups. As President and Co-Director of the Boulder Psychotherapy Institute, she has trained and supervised many local therapists in Applied Existential Psychotherapy (including Gestalt therapy) and related approaches for many years. She is an internationally known author, lecturer and workshop presenter.

Reed is an existential therapist who specializes in relationship, sex and romance counseling. He owned and managed a free confidential psychotherapy referral service from 1989 until recently. As Managing Director of the Boulder Psychotherapy Institute, he currently manages BPI's on-line free referral information service. He is happy to discuss referrals with anyone on request - and has an interest in making the public aware of psychotherapy services.

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