Finding a Therapist:  A Step-by-Step Guide

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© 2004, Trina Swerdlow

Here are the steps you will find on our “treasure map":

Step 1:  Gather a list of all of the CBT therapists you can find in your area. 

Step 2:  Send a brief email to each CBT therapist on your list.  A suggested email is provided.

Step 3:  Have a brief chat on the phone with each CBT therapist you are considering.  Suggested questions for this short conversation are provided.

Step 4:  Choose a CBT therapist for an initial session.


Step 1:  Gathering the List

To put together a list of CBT therapists in your area, follow these two steps:

1)  Go to this website: http://www.academyofct.orgThis is the directory of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, a leading organization in the field. Click on "Find a Therapist."

Print out the listings, even if they are not close to you.  Many CBT therapists will do phone sessions for people who do not live nearby or who cannot travel to the therapist's office because of agoraphobia.

2)  Try calling the nearest universities.  Ask for the psychology department.  Ask for a referral for "cognitive behavioral therapy for panic disorder".  Psychology professors at universities are likely to be familiar with CBT and can be great sources for referrals.  Also, many universities have CBT programs to help people in the community and for research.  Often, the cost is very low.


Step 2:  Making Contact

For each CBT therapist on your list, send an email or leave a brief phone message.

Here is a suggested email:

Dear Dr. [therapist’s name],

I found your name and email address through a website called “paniccure.com,” which includes a guide to finding a therapist.  I live in [your city or town].  I am working for my recovery from panic disorder, and I am looking for an experienced CBT therapist to work with.  If you are available, I would be interested in having a brief chat with you on the phone, to ask you a few questions.   My number is [your phone number].

Thank you,
[your name]

If no email address is listed, leave a brief phone message.  Here is a suggested phone message:

My name is [your name].  I found your name and phone number through a website called “paniccure.com,” which has a guide to finding a therapist.  I live in [your city or town].  I’m working for my recovery from panic disorder, and I’m looking for an experienced CBT therapist to work with.  If you’re available, I’d be interested in having a brief chat with you, to ask you a few questions.  My number is [your phone number].

Step 3:  Phone Interviews

Have a brief chat on the phone with each CBT therapist you are considering.  Remember: you are interviewing them to see if they feel like a good “match” for your needs.

Here are some suggested questions to ask:

1)    What can you tell me about your experience with CBT?

2)    Are you familiar with the work of David Barlow?  Do you use his approach or something similar? 

3)    In your experience, about how many sessions does it take before a client sees some progress in their recovery?

4)    What are your fees?  Do you think my insurance will cover some of the expense?

5)    Do you offer reduced fees for people with limited income?

6)    If you do not live nearby, or if agoraphobia makes it difficult to travel to the therapist’s office, ask:  "Are you willing to do phone sessions?"

A personal note from Neal:  When I started CBT, I was unable to travel to my therapist's office.  We started with phone sessions, and it worked great!

Step 4:  The Initial Session

Choose a therapist for an initial session.  Call and schedule an appointment.  

The purpose of the initial session is to get acquainted and learn about your therapist’s approach.  Remember that the therapist you hire is working for you.  The initial session should give you the information you need to decide if he/she is right for the job. 

If you are seeing the therapist in person, ask about a specific diagnosis and a specific treatment plan. 

After the session, ask yourself how you feel about this prospective therapist.  Do you feel comfortable with him/her?  Does he/she seem to have the experience and knowledge you are looking for?  Do you want to hire this person as your CBT therapist?

 

If the therapist just doesn’t feel right for you, call a second therapist for an initial session.  You are entitled to hire the very best CBT therapist you can find!

We invite your feedback on this  “treasure map,” so we can make it even better.  Send your comments and suggestions by clicking here.  Thank you!

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Triumph Over Panic, Inc. is affiliated with the Agoraphobia and Panic Disorder Foundation.