Anthony and Stephen Ragusea

Licensed Psychologists

1901 Fogarty Ave.
Suite 5
Key West, FL 33040

At this point you may be thinking that psychotherapy might be helpful to you or someone you know, but you may be wondering how to choose a psychologist. Choosing a psychologist is an important decision, and there are a number of factors to be taken into consideration.

One consideration is your financial situation. Do you have health insurance? If so, does your insurance provide coverage for psychological services? If so, find out if your insurance company will only reimburse for certain professionals in your area. Psychotherapy is usually expensive, but some therapists offer services on a sliding scale for people who have limited resources. If you don't have health insurance, fear not! The most popular option for people who don't have insurance is to visit their local community mental health center. These centers offer various services including psychotherapy under one roof, which is why even people who can afford to go elsewhere choose to utilize them. Sometimes, different kinds of private professionals will work together in one office for similar reasons. So, a psychologist, psychiatrist, and massage therapist might all share office space in order to provide more treatment options more conveniently.

Another consideration is location. How far are you willing to travel? Therapy can last weeks or even years, so you should try to choose a therapist within a comfortable traveling distance. NOTE: most of the gains from therapy occur in the first 10 sessions, so don't worry too much about making a lifetime commitment!

Next, you should consider whether the problem you are seeking help for requires a therapist with specialized skills (e.g., hypnosis, pain management, marital/family therapy) or comfort working with certain populations (e.g. gay/lesbian/transgendered, religious, disabilities, ethnic groups). If you want to know more about a certain therapist's skills or style, you might consider calling the therapist at his/her office and asking some questions before making a commitment. Many therapists won't mind spending a few minutes on the phone with a potential client if it will help them make an informed decision. Some therapists may prefer, though, to schedule an initial appointment with you so that you both have plenty of time to get to know each other. If afterward you choose not to continue with the therapist, he/she may not charge you for the session. You can always ask about a therapist's policy on fees.

But the most important thing you should take into consideration is your level of comfort with the therapist! Research shows that therapy is more effective when the client feels comfortable with his/her therapist and feels as though he/she truly understands the problem. Do you like your therapist? Are you both working toward the same goal? Do you feel like you and your therapist have agreed upon a plan of action? If you don't feel comfortable or feel as though you are not being understood, it is easy to simply not bring these feelings up or even drop out of therapy without mentioning it. Most of the time, however, if you bring up your concerns with your therapist directly, the resulting conversation is likely to be mutually satisfying. For example, even if you suspect your therapist can’t relate to you because of differences in age, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, remember that human beings are much more similar than they are different, and your therapist may be able to understand you better than you realize. And, sometimes it is actually more therapeutic to have a therapist who is different from you in some ways! Talking to someone who is just like you can be kind of like “thinking inside the box,” when what you probably need is to “think outside of the box.” Try to be open-minded and use your differences as an opportunity to learn a new and possibly better way of handling your problems. However, If you continue to feel you are not "connecting" with your therapist even after sharing your concerns, by all means switch therapists! Some people feel guilty for not getting along with their therapist, but remember, your therapist is there to make your life easier, not harder! A good professional understands that not everyone gets along, and he/she should help you to find someone else who can better meet your needs.

Now that we've talked about the factors to consider, how do you actually find a therapist? An easy way is to simply open up the phone book and look under "psychologists" or "therapists" or "mental health." Many psychologists have ads in the phone book, and this is a quick way to find one. Another strategy is to search the Internet, where you might find more information about a therapist than what can fit in a phone book listing. Yet another strategy is to ask around. Ask friends, colleagues, other doctors, and anyone you trust if they can recommend someone. When a psychologist is good, word usually gets around.