How Should I Choose A Therapist?
Most bulimics should consider entering professional therapy. I’m often asked for referrals for therapists, and at one lecture, I recommended a psychiatrist who was considered a national expert on eating disorders. From the back of the room, a woman immediately cried out, “Oh no, that man is horrible.” She went on to describe her experiences with him, which were indeed terrible. Yet I know that he has helped others. It is important to find the therapist that is right for you. Would you buy a car without a test drive? Some people spend an hour trying to decide which ice cream to pick in a supermarket. Choosing a therapist should certainly take more consideration than that. Put in time and effort to find a therapist that will help you.
Local health agencies usually provide lists of doctors and counselors who treat bulimia, and hospitals and medical clinics often have specialties in this area. Some hospitals that have inpatient units also have outpatient or day treatment programs, as well as groups available to the public. There are quite a few residential facilities devoted entirely to treating eating disorders. For some bulimics, hospitalization is an effective part of their treatment. (See the “Resources” section.)
As I’ve mentioned, there are different approaches to recovery. You must decide for yourself which approach best suits your needs. When you investigate therapy options, come with a list of questions. Does he or she emphasize the “abstinence” or “legalized” approach? Do they focus on changing thought patterns and expressing feelings? Do they give homework? How will they handle your anxiety level? Will they expect you to stop the bingeing right away, or allow you to improve at your own pace? How much experience do they have with this type of problem? Ask those questions which are important you to personally, remaining flexible enough to reevaluate your beliefs. Do what will work for you!
A “therapist” usually refers to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or marriage and family counselor, but can refer to other professionals, such as: licensed social workers, dietitians, or nutritionists. Also, some registered nurses, clergymen, acupuncturists, chiropractors, or those who practice therapeutic touch can provide invaluable services. A multidisciplinary approach combines several professionals as a treatment team. If drug therapy is a consideration, a qualified physician must be part of that team.
Check in the phone book and make some calls asking for references. Referrals are a good place to start, but you have to kick their tires! Call their offices and ask for a short appointment to meet them. Let them know that you are also interviewing other therapists—they’ll appreciate your effort. Come prepared with a list of questions. This will not be a therapy session, so your questions can be hypothetical or direct—it’s up to you. Some things you might ask are: What is their treatment approach to bulimia? How often would you need to see them? How quickly might you see results? How long would they expect therapy to last? What will the charges be and do they have a sliding fee, based upon income and need? Do they accept your insurance?
In evaluating the interviews, use criteria that are meaningful to you. These are subjective measures. Probably the most important area to consider is how you felt during the interviews. If you were comfortable with the therapist and felt that you could honestly work with him or her, that’s a good indication. Other things to notice: Do you like the office? Does the staff seem friendly? Does the therapist answer you directly and invite you to express yourself?
Finally, you can always change therapists. Once you’ve picked out someone, try at least a few sessions. Give therapy a chance. You might decide together on a reasonable time period before evaluating your progress. If therapy with your first choice proves unsatisfactory, find someone else!￼
Reprinted with permission from Bulimia: A Guide to Recovery
By Lindsey Hall and Leigh Cohn
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