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Joshua Childrens Foundation

FINDING/SELECTING a THERAPIST

Because I have heard from many persons who are confused on how to find and select a therapist for their healing, I've decided to write how I personally went about finding my therapist.

Let me say that I am not an expert, and this is only from my personal experience. And my relating my personal experience is not to be taken as a counseling or clinical relationship - as my experience is not the same as yours (as no two people's experiences are ever the same), and how I approached my counseling may not be right for you.

The thought of doing therapy was EXTREMELY scary for me. Probably most child sex abuse victims feel the same. I actually felt that if I started therapy and had to 'talk through' the details of what happened to me that I would literally die in the process. I had this feeling that I would literally (or figuratively) sink into a very think extra- muddy 'mud puddle' and would not be able to climb out of that - like I would continue to sink into 'quick sand' like mud and literally or figuratively drown. This may sound ridiculous to someone who has never faced this. If you are a recovering victim, perhaps you can relate to this or a similar feeling as you face your fears of 'working through this' for your healing.

I started with attending Overeaters Anonymous Meetings that were held at hospitals that had eating disorder clinics. At these meetings I met others with eating disorders and a history of having been sexually abused as children who encouraged me to get into therapy.   (Let me make a side note here that if you decide to attend Overeaters Anonymous, I found that groups that were not at eating disorder clinics in my area did not have people in attendance with eating disorders or history of having been abused. And I didn't relate to people who were overeating BUT did not have an eating disorder, and who were overeating for any cause other than being a sex abuse victim.)

I wanted to check myself into an eating disorder clinic, but my health insurance didn't cover it. Several people encouraged me to get the book Courage to Heal along with the WorkBook for that (both available in our Lending Library ). These books both encouraged me to start therapy and had information that helped me find and select a therapist who was a match for me.

This is how I went about finding and selecting a therapist:

First I got a list of recommended therapists from an eating disorder association.
Currently you can get Lists of Therapists from:
   
EdReferral.com - Excellent lists with details on therapists and clinics.
   Therapist Referral Lists  800 931-2237 National Eating Disorders Association

And for Male Survivors here is a resource directory of professionals wishing to offer services to male sexual abuse survivors at MaleSurvivor.org

I personally started with a list of about 40 therapists in my area who were recommended by an eating disorder association. This is how I went about the selection of a therapist after reading Courage to Heal WORKBOOK which has excellent points, questions, and evaluation sheets for therapists on pages 48 through page 57:

** I wrote down a short list of questions of items important to me (after studying the Courage to Heal Workbook), This list of questions was for my telephone short interview of potential therapists so that I would do this process analytically (not from my emotions). - although I did eliminate a couple 'from my emotions' of knowing that I got a 'gut feeling' of not feeling 'safe' with that therapist.

** Telephoned several therapists and screened with a short telephone interview of prewritten questions to decide whether to make an appointment with that therapist. I had decided to make an appointment with 3 to 4 therapists in the first group of my selection process. (I would have gone through the whole list of 40 if necessary)

** On the phone I told them I had a background of having been sexually molested as a child and would probably like to make an appointment with them, but would like to ask them 3 to 5 questions before making an appointment. Each one that I phoned allowed me to ask the questions.(If they had not agreed to the questions, I would have simply called the next therapist on the list.) Questions I asked them on the quick phone interview were short questions such as (a) How much experience do you have with bulimia, (b) How much experience do you have working with people who were sexually abused when they were children, (c) Do you require me to be on anti-depressants, and a couple other questions I formed from reading about therapists in the Courage to Heal WORKBOOK

** From these phone interviews, I eliminated several therapists. And I made an initial appointment with 5 therapists in person. I had decided that I would see each therapist in person from 1 to 3 times during my decision process and would treat these appointments as sort of interview and information gathering appointments until I selected the one therapist that I would work with on the long term basis for my healing. During my 'interview' phase with each therapist I wanted to determine:

    a) How therapy would help me get well.
    b) How I needed to go about working with a therapist.
    c) How did my eating disorder relate to having been sexually abused years before as a child.
    c) Whether I thought that particular therapist had the expertise to help me get well.
    d) Whether I would feel comfortable to share totally all the abuse experience and my feelings related to that with this person? Did I trust this person with my innermost feelings and fears?
    e) Whether that therapist was a match for me. By this I mean both personality wise, and whether they would let me go at my own speed and yet push me a little bit but not beyond what I was able to handle at the time. And whether I liked their personality and style for my healing.


My experience with appointments in person with 5 very qualified therapists ranged from:
   a) A wonderful gal who cried with me and hugged me, but I decided I didn't need a best friend, but a therapist who wouldn't get that involved in what I was talking about.
   b) A man who asked me a couple questions that made me feel that he got a thrill from discussing the sex abuse.
   c) A woman who chewed me out (actually yelling at me) for reading the books and bringing in a stack of these books from which I asked her questions. (I cried for over an hour after each of two appointments with her. And she had been highly recommended.)
   d) A nice and well qualified therapist who I just didn't feel was right for me.
   e) The one I selected who was wonderful and worked with me very professionally and gave me insight and strength to heal. I felt lucky to find her and she was both a highly qualified expert and a match for me. I credit her for saving my life. She gave me feedback and understanding of my abuse and my reaction and damage from the abuse. She gave me dignity in the ugliness of all the abuse. And gave me space and respect to let me come at my healing with my own pace and did not object to my massive amount of reading on the subject and she was patient with all my questions and asking her to give me feedback to fill in the blanks of what I was reading about. She had enough expertise and confidence in her ability to lead me to get well without feeling threatened by me reading and studying on my own. She is a Ph.D. and was on staff at a local (but nationally respected) university. And she lectured internationally in this field as well as wrote articles. She was very supportive of my decision to initiate a lawsuit against my dad. During a couple of very rough times, she let me make appointment with her every day of the week as I was in torment working through some issues. For all of these reasons, I am very thankful that I found and chose her to work with.


Before and during my therapy I read all the books that are in our Lending Library I started reading all these books (and more), making notes for myself, and putting sticky notes in the books as page markers. In reading I found things that I wanted to talk to my therapist about. In therapy I sort of took control for the first few months of appointments until I relaxed in the expertise of my therapist. The books were extremely helpful for me as they gave me a lot of help and answers outside the two hours a week that I was with my therapist. And in reading the books and then discussing with my therapist, several things started to make sense of how and why so many things in my life had been so out of control.

Hopefully this page has been of help to you in deciding to go into therapy and in your search for and selection of a therapist who is right for you. I am not telling you to approach this exactly as I did, but to find your own way of selecting a therapist. But feel free to follow parts of what I did if it relates to your personal style. There are some other good comments about finding and selecting a therapist at this webpage: EdReferral.com

You can read about the books that helped me at Lending Library. Please feel free to check out any of these books that you feel will be of help to you.

As you view our website, I would appreciate your suggestions and thoughts by your filling out our Survey/Feedback page. It is because of my hearing from many people asking about how to find and select a therapist that I wrote this page of how I went about it. So I would appreciate your letting me know in what other ways this website can be of help to you.

In Love and Best Wishes to you in your healing journey,
Nancy Williams
Founder of
Joshua Childrens Foundation


OTHER ARTICLES that may be helpful about finding/selecting a therapist:

  • Selecting a Therapist by Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea, Ph.D., Executive Director, Trauma Treatment Center, Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis and Co-Author, Treating the Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Psychoanalytic Perspective
  • EdReferral.com This includes articles on Finding/Evaluating a Therapist, Types of Therapists (i.e. definitions, glossary), Types of Therapy, Licensing Boards for Therapists.
  • Courage To Heal Workbook   by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis
    This workbook has sections on Creating Safety, Building Your Suport System, and includes information and worksheets for creating questions for potential therapists, and evaluation sheets for evaluation of potential therapists. This workbook is available through Amazon.com, your local bookstore, or our lending library.





NOTE: Inclusion in our list of organizations, books, counselors, and other links and resources does not necessarily indicate a recommendation or endorsement. What is helpful for another survivor may not be right for you. As always, use your own judgment when contacting any of these organizations. Advice given at this website, or in conjunction with Joshua Childrens Foundation activities is not to be taken as a counseling or clinical relationship but only as suggestion based on the founders personal experience as a sex abuse victim resulting in bulimia eating disorder and the healing journey from that. Articles, links, or content contained on this website should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner, nor should it be inferred as such. Always check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about a specific condition. Joshua Childrens Foundation does not take any responsibility and is held harmless from any actions by anyone associated with the websites we link to.


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