How you prepare

You might decide on your own that you want to try cognitive behavioral therapy. Or a doctor or someone else may suggest therapy to you. Here's how to get started:

  • Find a therapist. You can get a referral from a doctor, health insurance plan, friend or other trusted source. Many employers offer counseling services or referrals through employee assistance programs (EAPs). Or you can find a therapist on your own — for instance, through a local or state psychological association or by searching the Internet.
  • Understand the costs. If you have health insurance, find out what coverage it offers for psychotherapy. Some health plans cover only a certain number of therapy sessions a year. Also, talk to your therapist about fees and payment options.
  • Review your concerns. Before your first appointment, think about what issues you'd like to work on. While you can also sort this out with your therapist, having some sense in advance may provide a starting point.

Check qualifications

Psychotherapist is a general term, rather than a job title or indication of education, training or licensure. Examples of psychotherapists include psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed professional counselors, licensed social workers, licensed marriage and family therapists, psychiatric nurses, or other licensed professionals with mental health training.

Before seeing a psychotherapist, check his or her:

  • Background and education. Trained psychotherapists can have a number of different job titles, depending on their education and role. Most have a master's or doctoral degree with specific training in psychological counseling. Medical doctors who specialize in mental health (psychiatrists) can prescribe medications as well as provide psychotherapy.
  • Certification and licensing. Make sure that the therapist you choose meets state certification and licensing requirements for his or her particular discipline.
  • Area of expertise. Ask whether the therapist has expertise and experience treating your symptoms or your area of concern, such as eating disorders or PTSD.

The key is to find a skilled therapist who can match the type and intensity of therapy with your needs.

Feb. 23, 2016
References
  1. Lebow J. Overview of psychotherapies. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 11, 2016.
  2. Cognitive-behavioral therapy. National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists. http://www.nacbt.org/whatiscbt.htm. Accessed Jan. 10, 2016.
  3. Psychotherapy. National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Treatment/Psychotherapy. Accessed Jan. 10, 2016.
  4. Understanding psychotherapy and how it works. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/understanding-psychotherapy.aspx. Accessed Jan. 11, 2016.
  5. Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct: Including 2010 amendments. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx. Accessed Jan. 11, 2016.
  6. Psychotherapies. National Institute of Mental Health. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/psychotherapies/index.shtml. Accessed Jan. 11, 2016.
  7. PTSD: National Center for PTSD — Types of therapists. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/therapy-med/types_of_therapists.asp. Accessed Jan. 11, 2016.
  8. PTSD: National Center for PTSD — Choosing a therapist. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/therapy-med/choosing_a_therapist.asp. Accessed Jan. 11, 2016.
  9. HIPPA privacy rule and sharing information related to mental health. HHS.gov. http://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/mental-health/index.html. Accessed Jan. 11, 2016.
  10. Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 21, 2016.