How to Find the Type of Therapy You Need

Medical “house calls” were not unusual in the 1950s when I was a boy. I had the good fortune of receiving assistance from physicians who came to my family home once or twice.

Times have changed. No more house calls, but we often choose MDs and therapists as we did 65 years ago.

If you ask a close friend about their counselor, the answer will often lead you to your companion’s practitioner. You can also consult your primary care physician, but their knowledge of colleagues outside their specialty is not always as complete as you might hope.

The unspoken assumption many counseling shoppers make is that all “therapists” are equally capable of treating whatever psychological or emotional distress ails you. However, the actual talents and education of psychologists, psychiatric social workers, marriage and family therapists, and psychiatrists can be a mystery.

Think about it. If you look at a hospital’s list of medical departments, for example, you find many disciplines, some of which you might not be able to define. Similarly, if you consult a list of different therapies and medications, you could spend an impossible amount of time figuring out who to call and what to do.

I am not advising you to ignore the suggestions of your dear friend or physician. Nonetheless, I encourage you to consider the kind of therapy best designed to fit your condition. An essential factor will be to find out if it is effective.

If this is your choice, one website to look at is the Society of Clinical Psychology: Division 12 of the American Psychological Association. Its introductory statement is this, in part:

The field of Clinical Psychology involves … the applications of principles, methods, and procedures for … alleviating intellectual, emotional, biological, psychological, social and behavioral maladjustment, disability and discomfort, applied to a wide range of client populations.

In particular, pay attention to the Society’s guide to diagnostic categories and other treatment targets.

The names of the conditions you find there are relatively common, including  Anorexia Nervosa, Chronic Headache, Depression, Mixed Anxiety Conditions, and 25 others:

When you click on one of the named maladies, it will provide further information about specific treatments subjected to scientifically rigorous evaluation to verify effectiveness.

There are numerous lists of practitioners on this website and elsewhere on the web who typically describe the conditions they treat and, less often, the types of methods they use.

If you contact those individuals, it will be helpful to know their skill level and experience in using such “evidence-based” remedies as the ones found by clicking one of the 29 links listed by Division 12 (above).

Your friend’s counselor might even be one of them.

Good luck!


The two photos above display the recent work of the outstanding photographer Laura Hedien, with her permission: Laura Hedien Official Website. Both date from this year. The first was taken in the Italian Dolomites, while the second is from Burano, Veneto, Italy.

I should also disclose that I receive no compensation for promoting the American Psychological Association or Division 12. As noted elsewhere on this site, however, I am a retired Clinical Psychologist and member of the APA. My conviction about the value of scientifically established, evidence-based treatment is my own.

7 thoughts on “How to Find the Type of Therapy You Need

  1. Dr. Stein, I had no idea that Clinical Psychologists had become so specialized. As with the primary care physician in general medical practice, does this mean that one must first be diagnosed by a general psychology practitioner for referral to an appropriate psychotherapist for treatment? It would appear that, as our societies become more complex and alienating, we humans experience greater difficulty in coping with dysfunctional systems, everyday stressors, and maladies. Better to treat the mental illness than its societal causes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There isn’t a discreet category of GP or primary care physician in the psychological realm. Psychologists and other helping professionals are generally advised and expected to refer someone they cannot treat adequately. Part of the dilemma, however, is that many do not pay enough attention to the literature on empirically supported treatments or believe their own chosen form of treatment methodology is adequate for the job of addressing a wide range of individuals.

    Indeed, in some cases, it is difficult to evaluate whether they are right because many forms of treatment haven’t been subjected to proper evaluation or derive from theories that have been accepted by some practitioners for many years.

    As to your final point, indeed, societal dysfunction is often a contributing cause to unhappiness and more. One might say this has always been true in some places and for some people. I agree that the weight of the challenges of living today is great. Those in the mental health field are left to treat the problems in living and do our non-professional part concerning societal causes, even if they are not present in the person in our care.

    Thank you for your insightful comment on all counts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tamara Kulish from

    During my second marriage, my husband used the threat of suicide to try to prevent me from leaving him. He was extremely surprised when I called around to a couple local therapists to find one who would help him with that issue. He was angry with me, but I called him out on it, and let him know those suicide threats needed to be taken seriously.

    Even with suicide threats, I was surprised to find out that if a person wasn’t going to imminently attempt to do it, there were some therapists who told me it wasn’t their area of expertise!

    Of course, this was just a method of manipulation he was using on me, but because he had vocalized it I was able to get him into counseling, which he would never have agreed to previously.


    • Brava to you, Tamara! Many would not have done what you did or would have been unsuccessful in their efforts. As you say, many outpatient therapists refuse to take on suicidal patients. My sense is that some, indeed, feel it is beyond their talents, but I also have encountered more than a few who simply did not wish to take on the challenge. Many thanks for your comment,

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tamara Kulish from

        Thanks so much! It was my way of calling his bluff!

        I have observed that in some abusive relationships, the abuser “threatens” to kill themselves if their victim dares to leave, knowing full well the co-dependant person will feel obliged to stay, so they aren’t “responsible” for the death of another being. That is powerful manipulation, and the abuser actually has NO intention of killing themselves. If a partner dare calls their bluff, the abuser backs off.

        That is a very toxic dynamic indeed. Abusers are very difficult patients no doubt, and the chances of them changing are negligible, for they never see or admit to their faults. Tough to work with anyone who deflects, manipulates, and gaslights!


  4. Indeed, Tamara. There are many victims of abuse and manipulation who have been so diminished by the gaslighting and harm that the risk of driving the abuser away or to the point of suicide is more than they can contemplate.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s