Though I’ve been in therapy for various diagnoses for nearly 15 consecutive years, I can’t say that I’ve become particularly adept at choosing good therapists or treatment centers during that time. I don’t say this because my experiences have been overwhelmingly negative thus far; in fact, only one person I have worked with has proved to be unworthy of my time and money. And that one bad apple was an excellent pharmacologist—what put him front and center on my shit list was his highly unethical behavior during our last session together, when he went on a fishing expedition for dirt he could use against another of my therapists, one for which he held deep-seated personal and professional jealousies and contempt. But, I digress.
The first therapist I saw was a psychiatrist whom my father found and paid for after I had spent approximately nine-years in relative seclusion, mostly due to anxiety disorders. He was helpful in many ways, and the medications I was prescribed allowed me to go out into the world to a degree I had not been able to do in my adolescent or adult life to that point. Those medications came with side effects that proved to be much more severe than my psychiatrist thought possible (or, at least, realistic), and, after more than a decade together, we parted ways. I was at a nadir—one of many—and needed a change. I had gained 130 lbs., was sleeping up to 20+ hours a day (even reaching the 24 hour mark on a number of occasions), and my state of mind was in the crapper.
The change I was seeking came to me in the form of an email sent by my mother. Upon being informed of my rather dire circumstances, she went online and found a nearby CBT clinician, who was in the process of transitioning from running a private practice to opening her own clinic. For three-and-a-half years, I worked with her and a number of other therapists addressing the four anxiety disorders I had been diagnosed with. In the process, I was also diagnosed with mood and personality disorders, as well as attentive problems. Though I weaned myself off meds aimed at addressing my anxiety disorders during this phase of my treatment, I had to go back on meds for the attentive, mood, and personality problems. This was the reason I began working with the unethical psychiatrist referenced in the first paragraph of this essay. Ironically, he was recommended by the very person whom he chose to attack, using me as his pawn when doing so. That recommendation was the one severe lapse in judgment I would ascribe to an otherwise excellent therapist, whom I continue to hold in high regard.
Needing to address my mood and personality disorders more intensively, I transferred to a second clinic, also recommended to me by my previous therapist. She offered me the chance to transfer to this clinic, which specialized in residential treatment, during one of our 50-minute sessions and I took her up on her offer. The treatment I received at clinic #2 proved to be excellent, and I consider what I received to be well worth the $25,000 or so spent for the eight weeks I was part of their program. I continue to work with the individual therapist and psychiatrist I was assigned to at this clinic, though they tack on an extra $100 or so per-session to the cost of my individual therapy (and will do so until six months have passed since my discharge, at which point I will be allowed to pay her private fees). As with my previous therapists, it was the recommendation of someone else that brought me through their doors, and I am fortunate to be able to look back and say, sans hesitation, that the advice I received proved to be greatly beneficial.
During my treatment, I have worked with both male and female therapists, and have found that I have a decided preference for the latter, mostly because I dislike being vulnerable around my own sex. I also have learned that, when researching therapists, credentials are of the utmost importance. The more information provided on a therapist’s or clinic’s website, the better, and any credible therapists ought to have curricula vitae that are available to the public. Also, the cheapest therapists are often those with the bare-minimum qualifications to practice therapy. Unfortunately, quality treatment is almost always expensive, though many therapists’ offer sliding scales to a set number of clients per-year.
So, to wrap up: ask around, check the websites, look for a CV, and be prepared to empty your pockets. Have fun!