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".I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”
~ Audre Lorde ~

CHOOSING A THERAPIST


A NOTE TO IPSV SURVIVORS

Minerva and the Centaur, Botticelli
Roman Goddess of wisdom and medicine
This page will present important information on finding a therapist. Specifically for sexual assault/domestic violence issues, crisis centres usually offer short-term counselling. Some do offer longer-term counselling; you'll need to check. These services are usually free. You may wish to seek a counsellor who works with issues such as post-traumatiic stress disorder, or other issues that you need help with. What follows are a few things to keep in mind when seeking out a counsellor for yourself:

  • If you are still in danger, couples or marriage counselling is not a safe alternative for you. See this article If a counsellor recommends this to you, they may not be taking the abuse you've experienced seriously.
  • The counsellor should not minimize what happened to you or seek to excuse your partner - for example, some counsellors may see sexual violence as a "mutual issue" rather than something done to hurt and control you. The counsellor should understand that partner rape is a crime, not, for example, a misunderstanding over sex.
  • The counsellor should not blame you, or give you pejorative labels such as "masochist" and "codependent "
  • The counsellor will be able to hear that you may still have positive feelings for your partner
  • The counsellor will understand that you have been traumatized
  • While some pastoral counsellors do handle marital rape sensitively, too many women are told to "go home and pray" or "submit" Do not settle for this - no matter how much you may trust the counsellor in spiritual matters - your safety is the most important thing.. Make sure also that what you say will be confidential. Of course, this is a given with most counsellors (unless you are a risk to yourself or others, or children are being harmed) - but there's been an unfortunate trend for some church counsellors to confront perpetrators thus endangering women.
  • Counselling should empower you to make the best choices for yourself.
  • You will not be expected to disgorge everything in the first session. Counsellors understand that it takes time for trust and rapport to be built up.

FINDING A THERAPIST
The following information appears on Pandora's Aquarium.
Permission kindly granted by author Jes for usage.
Finding a therapist is an important and often frightening part of the recovery process. It can be very intimidating to search for the person with whom you are going to share parts of your life that you may never have disclosed before. However, a relationship with the right professional can be richly rewarding, allowing you to make leaps and bounds as you heal and grow as a person.

As you start looking, you may want to ask friends, family, your rape crisis center, a trusted clergy member, or your doctor for recommendations. If you belong to a managed health care organization, you can look on their website to find out if mental health services are available, or you can narrow down your search by using an Internet-based therapist locator (see Further Resources).
SELECTING CANDIDATES
It is hard to know where to start when you have a list of names in front of you. You can narrow down your choices by considering a few factors.

  • · How far can you drive to therapy appointments?
  • · Would you be more comfortable with a male or female practitioner?
  • · Do you need the therapist to speak a different language?
  • · Does the clinician have experience addressing these issues you are bringing to therapy?
As you search, you should also be aware of the many qualifications that mental health professionals may possess. Keep in mind that while your therapist's training will inform his or her therapeutic style, the title the therapist holds is only one factor in this important decision. What is really important is finding someone with whom you connect and can trust is able to treat the problems you want to address. However, it is important to find someone with credentials; it is a little known fact that anyone can call themselves a therapist, regardless of their training. You can find a list of recognized titles and licenses that mental health professionals may hold and a little information about them here.

Therapists use different approaches. Some therapists may use a combination of approaches while others will stick strictly to one method. A variety of methods are effective, but you may find that you have a preference. You can find a list of approaches and a little information about them here.
CHOOSING THE THERAPIST
Once you've narrowed your search down to a few candidates, go ahead and contact your first choice. If you are connected to an answering machine or service, just leave your name and number. It may help you to have a few prepared questions written down in front of you. Ideas include:

  • · What experience do you have treating [what you want to work on]?
  • · What therapeutic techniques do you use?
  • · What are your fees?
  • · What insurances do you accept?
  • · Is a sliding fee scale a possibility?
If you are comfortable with the answers the therapist gives you, schedule an appointment to meet. If you are not, it is okay to say that you have a few more candidates to call and thank the person for his or her time. If that is the case, call the next person on your list.
MEETING YOUR THERAPIST

The big day is here! You've done your homework and have scheduled an appointment to see someone with whom you think you might build a therapeutic relationship. When you walk in to the office, you will probably be nervous. You can find some tips to help you through this appointment below.

As you sit down with the practitioner, ask yourself if you feel comfortable. A therapist will assume a very important role in your life, your growth as a person and your healing process, so you will want someone with whom you have a connection. You will also want to know if the therapists' values are in alignment with yours. For instance, if you are gay or lesbian, it would be hard for you to establish a relationship with someone who disapproves of your sexual orientation. If you are not religious, it might also be difficult for you to work with a practitioner who thinks that religion should be an important part of the healing process. Another consideration is whether or not the therapist is appropriately challenging. A clinician should be able to supportively help you to change unhealthy behaviors and thought processes rather than an agreeing with everything you say. At the same time, a therapist who is overly aggressive won't help you either. Therapy is hard work and it is important to work with someone who will facilitate your efforts.

AS YOU PROCEED
Many practitioners recommend giving a therapist three sessions before making a decision about whether or not this is the right person for you. The initial assessment period can be anxiety producing and somewhat awkward feeling, so if you aren't sure about a therapist, stick with it. However, if a therapist says something that makes you distinctly uncomfortable or you are are sure that you'll be unable to make progress with this person, it is okay to continue your search. It may take you more than one try to find the right therapist. Just as you might try a few different hairstylists or mechanics, you may need to call or meet with more than one practitioner before you find the right one. Keep at it until you meet with someone with whom you have a rapport.

As you build your relationship with your therapist, remember that you have the right to be heard and respected throughout the process. At times, therapy may become difficult. That is because you are working toward change and change is challenging for everyone! It can help to open up a dialogue with your practitioner by saying, "When you said ABC, I felt XYZ". Profound growth can result from working through the challenging moments in therapy, so give your practitioner a chance to listen to you and respond. Stick with the process and therapy can be a transformative experience. Good luck!
FURTHER RESOURCES

Internet Therapist Finder Sites:

  • Australia: Find a Counsellor
    • Australian women should also know a couple of things: If you are depressed, experiencing anxiety or PTSD, Your doctor may be able to make a "mental health plan" (not as yuck as it sounds) wherein you can get counselling with a psychologist much more cheaply. Domestic violence and rape survivors may also be entitled to an allotment of free counselling sessions through the Victims of Crime Compensation scheme - see this site. When you choose your counsellor, ask if he/she works with this scheme. My experience of this is that your counsellor will send the paperwork away with no stress to you. It does not matter if the crime wasn't reported or how long ago it was; the tribunal understands that DV and rape are traumas that can be long-lasting.
  • United Kingdom: Counselling Directory
  • USA: Psychology Today
  • Canada: Find a Therapist
  • New Zealand: Find a Therapist
Further Reading: