Choosing the Right Mental Health Therapist

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By Deanna Denman, PhD, Licensed Psychologist, Clinical Health Psychologist

Find the right therapist can be just as difficult as finding an endometriosis specialist. There are many different types of therapists providing many different types of therapy out there, and “fit” between you and your therapist is very important. I’ve included some helpful information and tips below to help you find a good therapist if you’d like some support along your Endo journey.

  1. Finding a therapist-

-Expect to check out several therapists via website. Most therapists offer a free consultation to see if you both think it’s a good fit. The “fit” with you and your therapist is going to be important for your trust and ultimately your progress in therapy.

-If you meet with someone and they aren’t a good fit, that’s okay! You can even ask them if they have referrals for you.

-Ask your doctor if they have any recommendations. Some doctors have therapists they have worked with in the past and who they trust. Ask if your doctor has any referrals for you.

-There are SEVERAL therapist directories. Search them for therapists in your area. I encourage you to check out:

  • Inclusive Therapists
  • Psychology Today
  • Therapy for Black Girls
  • Therapy for Latinx
  • QTPOC
  • Your insurance company (they usually list covered providers on their website)
  • Your network (friends, family, co-workers) if you are comfortable

**Some people prefer to work with therapists who hold similar identities to them. I’ve included some resources for therapists of color and LGBTQ+ therapists in the list above***

2. What to ask-

So you’ve found a few potential therapists. What should you ask in the first consultation:

-How much do sessions cost?

Therapy is an investment in your well-being, but I know costs can be prohibitive! BE thoughtful and open about your budget for therapy. Many therapists list their rates online as well as whether or not they accept insurance. Some therapists don’t accept insurance, but will still provide you with a receipt for services that you can provide to your insurance for reimbursement. ***Talk to your insurance provider about your out-of-network mental health benefits.***

-How much experience and what trainings do you have in working with people with endometriosis?

(You can also ask about other things you’d like to work on in therapy like trauma, anxiety, or even people-pleasing). Really anything is fair game, but it’s important to assess their comfort level with your particular concerns. Specifically, if you are seeking support with your Endo, you want to know if they are familiar with the condition, if they are comfortable in collaborating with your medical providers, and what kinds of interventions they use. If they have never worked with someone with chronic pain, or their only recommendation for someone with chronic pain is to start exercising, they’re not likely to be a good fit.

How will we set goals/measure progress?

Ideally, you want to set goals together with your therapist. You should also check in regularly about how you are doing and the plan for moving forward

3. Credentials-

If you’ve ever been confused by the alphabet soup after therapists’ names, you’re not alone. The conversation around the differences between “counseling” and “therapy” are beyond the scope of this post. Most people use the terms interchangeably and the right provider for you could fall into either category.

***Note: any provider you work with must be licensed to practice (or pursuing licensure and working under supervision)***

Let’s break it down:

Professional Counselors

  • LPC- licensed professional counselor (may have -A, -S behind LPC to designate  “associate” or “supervisor”)
  • LMHC- licensed mental health counselor
  • LCADAC- licensed clinical alcohol and drug abuse counselor
  • LMFT- licensed marriage and family therapist

Broadly, counselors are more focused on helping you solve mental health and behavioral problems and giving you very practical skills.

*LMFTs are not technically counselors (their title even includes ‘therapist’), but they best fit in this category, and tend to specialize in things influenced by relationships. LMFTs DO offer individual therapy and often have specialty training in concerns like infertility.

Social Workers

  • LCSW- licensed clinical social worker (may have -A, or -C behind LCSW to designate “associate” or “certified”)
  • LISW- licensed independent social worker
  • MSW- Master of social work (the degree)

Again, broadly, social workers are very well trained to address social and environmental issues (think: systems of oppression and “isms”) and problem-solve. They also tend to be very knowledgeable about resources (like programs and trainings) that can help you.

Psychologists

  • PhD- doctor of philosophy
  • PsyD- doctor of psychology

Generally, psychologists focus on very complex issues and very strongly grounded in theories of mental health. They tend to be more assessment-, and research-, focused due to their training. (They can also do psychological testing for things like memory and learning disabilities)

These are all very broad generalizations and still don’t address people’s specialties (the populations they focus on), the theory they are grounded in, or the interventions they use. The best place to get a sense of that is by reading their websites and speaking with them directly.

What’s important- regardless of the letters, most of them are trained to help people work things out in therapy. They will NOT all have the training to help with issues around endometriosis. That’s why taking advantage of the consultation is important.

4. Specialties-

Therapists often have specialties. Realistically, you can find therapists specializing in just about anything. There are some therapists who specialize in trauma, others who specialize in working with high-achievers who want to slow down. There are ALSO therapists who specialize in working with patients who have chronic illness. You may want to see a provider who has specialty training and focus in working with patients with chronic illness. Finding the right therapist for you can take some effort but is worth it. Consider what you’d like to address and look for therapists who speak to that on their sites/listings. If you can, take advantage of free consultations. Ask potential therapists about their experience and training in your concerns. Be open to trying more than one and know that personality fit is important. It’s okay to search until you find the right support for you on this endometriosis journey.

A Letter to Providers from Two Endo Patients