I would like to be able to talk to someone but know the only way I’ll be able to talk about personal issues is to pay a therapist. The problem is that owning to a number of previous experiences, I can’t find one that seems to work for me. I have post traumatic stress disorder. I have been receiving an increasing number of death threats as the country becomes more polarized. My most recent death threat came just last month. In December I was held at gun point and in May of 2014 someone actually took a shot at me. Because of the nature of my work law enforcement cannot be involved as that is a violation of the offender’s privacy. Everything is reported through work, but I’m having trouble coping because most people in the area, including my family, thinks that shooting at Federal Employees makes for good sport. (These are people who deify Cliven Bundy and probably Ted Bundy.) I was seeing a professor through the University of Idaho, but stopped seeing him in private practice after he killed his girlfriend in 2011. He’s in prison now. In 2013 I was seeing a different therapist, but he told me that I was under satanic attack and the President Obama was brainwashing me. I stopped seeing him immediately because I was pretty sure he was crazier than I was. Most recently I was seeing a man from January to April who insisted that my life would be better if I converted to Christianity and started attending church. He wasn’t as crazy as the previous guy, but I do wish I could talk to a therapist who isn’t trying to change my religion (I’m not christian), sexuality (I don’t know if I’m hetero, homo, or bi and I don’t see how it’s relevant since I haven’t been on a date since 2006), career path (I work for the Federal Government), or relationship status (single and staying that way). What are some key questions to ask a person before starting therapy and ultimately wasting my time and money? Also, what kinds of answers do I need to be looking for from the therapist? (age 37, from the US)
Wow, you have had some incredible bad luck with therapists. I’m so sorry and hope that your next experience will be much more helpful. The best ways to find a therapist are to get a referral from someone you trust, such as a like-minded friend who has been to the person themselves, or to read up on the therapist before you ever make an appointment. Many therapists have personal websites these days or have profiles on public sites like Psych Central or Psychology Today. This way you can see what they are all about and narrow down the field of candidates.
The next step is to request a consultation, either by phone or in person, if available. This gives you a chance to see if you think it will be a good match. I would recommend that you ask how much experience the person has treating PTSD, especially in relation to complications with government employers. For example, a therapist who has worked with police and fire or military clients might be well versed in the issues you face. Based on your past experience, I would also recommend that you specifically seek a therapist who does not describe themselves as a Christian counselor.
My last thought on the matter would be to speak to your human resource department regarding EAP services or to see if they have contracts with therapists to help employees such as yourself. This may be the easiest and most affordable way to get help. I hope that you stay safe and find a good match with a therapist soon.
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts