We don't always choose
the circumstances of our lives,
but we CAN choose our response.
is about transforming life's lemons,
and fully living the life you have,
even if it's not the life you wanted.

Finding and Working with a Psychotherapist

Two friends are talking over a couple of beers. One says to the other, “So what did your therapist say about that problem?” The other one replies, “Are you kidding? I would never tell my therapist about THAT!”

The point of seeing a therapist is to get some help and a different perspective on whatever is going on in your life. The most important factor in choosing a therapist is finding one you WILL tell about the issues in your life. All the research on psychotherapy reaches the same conclusion: of all the dozens of approaches, the best predictor of success in therapy is NOT the theory, but the relationship, the therapeutic alliance, between the client/patient and the therapist. So find a therapist you are comfortable with, one who listens attentively, is non-judgmental, gives good feedback, does not simply give you advice, but helps you decide for yourself what your best course of action will be.

If you live in the Los Angeles area and you like what you have read in this website, I hope you will contact me. Otherwise, here are some guidelines to finding a therapist in your area:

  1. Find a psychotherapist:
    1. if you know someone who is seeing a therapist, ask for a referral
    2. check with a local university for referrals
    3. ask your medical doctor or your insurance company for referrals
    4. go to PsychologyToday.com, click on Find A Therapist, enter your zip code, and see who comes up. To narrow your search, go down the left menu and click areas of concern or other applicable topics
    5. contact APA, AHP, AAMFT, CAMFT, or another professional organization, all of which have referrals
  2. Once you have a name, call and ask if you can talk for about 5 minutes on the phone before making an appointment.
    If the person is unwilling to spend any time with you later that day or the next day, it is an indication that you might not get the kind of service you want from that person.
  3. Give a very brief list of your main concerns and ask if that therapist has experience with those issues. Ask how he or she would approach helping you.
    There are dozens of theoretical approaches, and each therapist has an individual style, so you are looking for a sense of whether this person’s style feels right for you.
  4. If you do not feel comfortable after speaking with this person, call someone else.
    As in any relationship, some people work well together and others do not – the person’s licenses or training may or may not have anything to do with how well you “fit.”
  5. If you do feel comfortable after this brief conversation, ask about fees/insurance, and then make an appointment.
    Be sure you have directions and give yourself time to get there, so you won’t be short-changing yourself for time – therapists usually allow 45-50 minutes per session, unless they have a longer intake session, and you’ll need extra time to fill out paperwork before your session. Be sure you bring insurance information and payment for this session, unless other arrangements were made on the phone.
  6. Your first session will give you a sense of how it feels to work with this person. However, most of the time will likely be spent with the therapist trying to gather information, and you may or may not feel like you made progress.
    The most important question for you at this point is whether you feel like you will be able to talk with this person. Unless you have a very bad reaction to your session, you should probably return for at least 2-3 more times before making a decision about working with him or her.
  7. Therapy is a partnership. You might not like every minute of every session (and sometimes you might be very unhappy about a session), but overall, you should feel like you are gaining some new awareness, insights, skills, or understandings, and you should feel like your life is improving as a result.
    You need to be actively involved in your sessions, and in between sessions, to get the most from the venture. And the therapist needs to be attentive and actively involved as well. However, the therapeutic relationship is NOT a personal or sexual one. Any inappropriate suggestions or actions on the part of the therapist are a reason for immediately terminating the relationship – and for reporting the therapist to the licensing agency.
  8. If you do not feel you can work with this person, then call someone else.
    There is no use in spending your time and money if you do not work well together.


Psychotherapist with psychotherapy office serving Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Valley Village.