Q: I went to a couple of counselors several years ago. They just sat and nodded while I poured my heart out. I never felt they offered any helpful suggestions. I quit going and started reading books, which did a world of good! How do I find a counselor like you or like the authors of the books I've read?

What training do you have to be called a "psychotherapist"? Some of them aren't worth beans. I don't know if it's the university/college they went to, or the philosophy of their teachers, but some therapists can help and some can't. Is there a central accreditation center where I could write to find psychotherapists like you?

Thanks for any help you can give.

A: I'm sorry you've had such a disappointing time with the sampling of therapists you've come into contact with. Unfortunately, a good therapist can't be measured by his or her training, degree, orientation, or official listing, even though these things are important. (State boards are the central accreditation agents. Boards are organized by profession. So psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, and counselors each have their own state board and listing--see related links below.)

Finding the right counselor is often a matter of finding the right person--their attitudes, values and experience; the quality of your connection with them; and the specific match of the personalities involved.

I've found that the best way to find a therapist is through word of mouth, a recommendation from someone you know and trust, and who knows you, and so can intuit the kind of person and approach you are likely to respond to well.

If you don't have that option available to you, then the best thing to do is interview people, either on the phone or in person, before you "sign up" with them. You can get a pretty good feel for most people by talking with them in this way, especially if you're willing to listen to your gut response to them in the first few minutes of contact.

If the therapist won't allow you to do this, then go on to the next name on your list! It's a buyer's market these days.

Don't give up. There really are some very good therapists, counselors, and "shrinks" out there. (By the way, a therapist can be a psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse, counselor, minister, etc.) Good luck to you!
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