Choosing a Therapist
As all therapists and anyone who has ever seen a therapist know, at least half of the work depends on the human connection. That is to say, chemistry matters. This is the primary reason that it is sometimes suggested that you meet with more than one therapist before making a decision. You will know who feels right.
When I talk with women about looking for the right person, I also remind them to ask about the therapist's experience with other breast cancer patients/survivors. You don't want to spend your time and dollars educating someone about treatment and side effects and normal reactions. Frankly, you also don't want to deal with someone who has her own issues about cancer and may be tempering her own anxiety. Geography, schedule, and insurance matter, too. (and the first two are sometimes reasons why I am helping someone identify a therapist in the community rather than working with her myself).
Sage Bolt, MSW, PhD responded beautifully and fully to this question for LBBC:
Question: Can you please review what a counselor can do for a person, and where I should
go to find one?
Dr. Bolte: A mental health professional can be helpful to an individual, couple or family in a
variety of ways. This professional can help assess and identify coping skills to help you better
manage thoughts, feelings or areas of your life that are creating or reacting to stress and
decreasing your quality of life. For example, if you are experiencing increased anxiety around your
diagnosis, or if fear of recurrence is interfering with your quality of life, a counselor could help you
identify triggers that may be increasing these fears. The counselor can then work with you to
better manage these fears and improve your overall quality of life.
There are different kinds of mental health professionals. The most common are: licensed clinical
social workers, psychiatrists, licensed clinical psychologists, licensed professional counselors and
certified sex therapists (who help address sexual health issues after cancer). It is essential that
you verify the professional is licensed by your state licensing board to practice individual therapy.
You can identify an oncology-certified social worker by going to the Association of Oncology
Social Work directory. You can find other mental health professionals through your insurance
provider list, word of mouth or a list of professionals recommended by your oncology team. It is
important to remember that you can interview a variety of therapists to find the right fit. Whether
this is a short- or long-term relationship, it is important that you feel comfortable with the
professional's model of practice.
Questions to ask your mental health professional include:
1. Do you take insurance?
2. Do you bill the insurance company or provide me with reimbursement papers?
3. What is your hourly fee?
4. What is your practice model?
5. Are you comfortable working with individuals who have or have had cancer or other illnesses?
6. Are you familiar with how cancer and its treatments may impact my quality of life?
7. Do you work with individuals, families and couples of all ages?