Jun | 2015

26th

Friday

The best questions you can ask to interview and choose a counselor, therapist, or personal consultant/coach

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The chances that – at some point in your lifetime – you or someone you know will utilize the services of a behavioral health professional are very high, according to credible survey research.  To be specific, about one in every three people will utilize the services of someone who is psychologically trained.

There are several reasons for this, including the following:

-Professional, semiprofessional, and competing adult and youth athletes are increasingly utilizing sports psychologists to maximize their performance.  Peak Performance is increasingly recognized as a simple result not of the body, but of the attuned mind.

-Parents are increasingly using behavioral science professionals to accelerate the development of their children, thereby giving them an added “edge.”

-As the divorce rate continues to grow, people are utilizing behavioral health professionals to help them minimize the impact of divorce on their children.

-People increasingly realize that just because they have not been diagnosed with an emotional or behavioral problem does not mean they are ANYWHERE close to their potential.  Behavioral science experts are closing the gap between current performance and peak functioning.

The problem is that there are a growing and dizzying number of people who report they have a certification or degree indicating they are the “expert” who you should work with.    One of the most recent trends is “life coaching”.  Life coaches claim to have special skills and expertise in helping people organize their interior lives.  The same claim is made by many professional groups including social workers, counselors, and psychologists. In fact, you could add astrologers to that group!

And as you can tell, this list of different professionals involves an amazingly diverse group that has very different levels of training and credentialing.   Example: it is my understanding that anyone in the state of Arizona can call themselves a “counselor”.  Other terms such as “life coach”, “helper”, etc…, are also not legally protected.  In other words, anyone tomorrow could call themselves a counselor and hang out a shingle and start seeing people. In contrast, the term “psychologist” is legally protected in the state of Arizona.  There are very specific criteria and training requirements one must meet in order to become a board certified psychologist.

To be even more specific, there is no unified and consistent training program for professionals who practice in the field of behavioral health, or what I like to call behavioral science. This stands in stark contrast to the professional group known as “physicians”.  Physicians go through much more standardized types of training, whether they trained in Arizona or Florida or Illinois.

In other words: BUYER BEWARE!!!!  You can end up spending a lot of money with a so-called behavioral health professional who has no idea what they’re doing, but they have a warm heart and they believe they can help you.  But the distance between their BELIEF and their EFFECTIVENESS can be the size of the Grand Canyon.

How do you differentiate between these professional groups?  For over a decade I have worked with professionals in all of these groups (except astrologers).  I have composed a list of questions that I offer to you so that you can forward them to those you care about.

Before you read this list, let me remind you of something:  While the older generations have treated doctors like Gods, we live in a time where healthcare should be about a partnership.  If your doctor is not willing to be in that kind of partnership with you, then you should reconsider whether you’re getting what you deserve. 

By the way, before you interview the consultant or practitioner, I suggest you request a copy of their resume/vitae.  Increasingly, practitioners post their resumes online, as I do.  Another place you can look to check out their credentials, and their level of connectivity to their local and national community, is LinkedIn.

Here are the questions you  – or someone you care about  – can use to assess who will be the very best fit to help you or your child with their emotional, behavioral, or workplace performance (in the case of a business consultant):

-How much scientific training have you gone through to get your degree?
-How much of your training directly related to the problems that I/we are having?
-How do you balance the need for being professional (and more objective) with the need to be caring and empathetic (more personal)?
-How do you decide which techniques/treatments you will use?
-How much research is behind the assessment or treatment methods you use?
-How do you monitor whether someone is getting better or not?
-What kinds of techniques or data to collect before any intervention is begun so we can assess your effectiveness?
-What experience do you have that would help with this problem?
-What are the varieties of evidence-based methods available to help with the situation?
-How do you take into account the personality of the person you are treating?
-What steps do you take to make sure you are treating/addressing a person’s problems from within the uniqueness of their personality?
-How do you determine what an acceptable level of success is with each client or patient?
-Do you have clients or patients I can interview who can talk to me about their experience with you?

Finally, if you are looking for a practitioner to conduct an evaluation, such as a psychological evaluation to assess problems like ADHD or anxiety, you can ask the practitioner for copies of sample reports they’ve written so you can see what the final product looks like.

And if you feel truly lost, remember, you can ask a practitioner you do trust to interview the practitioner you are thinking of using.  In that situation, you are using one practitioner as a “healthcare consultant”.  I’ve had many clients who’ve asked me to interview people they are thinking of using, for example, if they had moved to another state.

Finally, with the growth of “tele-healthcare”, you can utilize the services of advanced professionals through the use of Skype and other online forums.  However, you have to be especially careful to critically assess anyone you are considering using.  If you don’t, you are putting your own health  – or your child’s  – at risk.


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