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5 Things to Look for in a Marriage and Family Therapist

Seeing a marriage and family therapist used to invoke negative implications and cause embarrassment to couples some generations ago. Today, cultural values, individual awareness and insurance coverage are rapidly changing. Couples therapy is now viewed as an important way to deal with relationship problems and family situations, such as depression, substance abuse and interpersonal conflict.

Basic Competencies

Instead of showing up unprepared to the first therapy session, try to call the therapist to ask a few important questions. First, ask the therapist where they earned their degree and completed their supervised residency or internship. Second, ask them how many years they have been practicing psychology and how much experience they have dealing with your specific types of problems. Give them a personal problem, such as feeling anxious or depressed, and ask them what treatments they might use. Ask for specific examples of past success when dealing with your problems.

Related resource: The Top 10 Low-Cost Online Master's Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy

Trust and Respect

Therapeutic success is based on the ability of the therapist to establish and cultivate mutual trust and professional respect. People often determine whether or not they can trust someone within only minutes and sometimes even a few seconds of meeting them. The best therapists will effectively communicate both verbally and non-verbally with clients. When meeting a therapist for the first time, pay attention to inner vibes and initial reactions. Decide if you feel comfortable sharing very sensitive and personal information with the therapist. Trained therapists will be able to establish positive alliances and drive better therapeutic outcomes.

Professional Credentials

All marriage and family therapists must have basic education and licensing credentials. Most psychologists spend a six to seven years in graduate training and research after earning undergraduate degrees. Professional training means a supervised internship in a health care organization. Those who earn a doctoral degree will need at least a few years of post-doctoral supervised experience. The doctoral-level training and clinical internships indicate the most qualified psychologists and mental health care providers. Psychologists must be licensed by the state to practice therapy. Therapists must maintain their license through meeting continuing education requirements every year.

Financial Flexibility

Weekly or biweekly marriage and family therapy sessions will certainly be expensive. Be sure to look for therapists who offer sliding-scale fee policies and accept different types of insurance, such as Medicare or Medicaid. Verify if they accept direct billing or payment from insurance companies. Certain people may need to look for a therapist who is affiliated with a managed care organizations. Always double check with the therapist's office staff if your insurance company will reimburse mental health services and what benefit limitations may apply.

Therapeutic Communication

Look for therapists who will be able to provide explanations of causes, symptoms and mitigating factors. Therapists should be able to adapt their treatment focus and techniques as circumstances change and as clients make positive progress. Seek effective therapists who provide explanations that clients can understand based on their own experiences and backgrounds. Therapist should be able to appropriately translate scientific facts and psychological theories.

A marriage and family therapist, who is properly trained and licensed, can help couples and families solve and manage problems in order to live healthier and more productive lives. The American Psychological Association (APA) offers additional advice on how to find the right therapist here.