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How YOU Can Find an Effective Therapist

Finding a therapist can be a daunting task. Our communities are full of these trained listeners. But what makes an effective therapist? Of course, the ability of a therapist to develop a strong, therapeutic alliance and the ability to genuinely convey empathy and understanding are important factors in a therapist’s “good fit” for any given individual and their needs. This premise, frequently referred to as “common factors”, is most certainly critical for change to take place.

But, beyond these relationship factors, there is strong evidence concluding that effective psychotherapy also involves an active, collaborative, skill-building, process that provides clients with the opportunity to create change through new learning experiences, involving changes in thinking, emotional processing, and behavior choices. Yet, there are varied avenues to these therapy goals. With these varied paths to change, how are consumers to choose a clinician that is likely to provide effective treatment?

Firstly, it is important, as an informed healthcare consumer, to know that psychological treatments come in different approaches. Therapists refer to these perspectives as “theoretical orientations.” There are many orientations, many of which have merit (That’s a post for a later date); however, as an informed consumer, you should know what you’re getting and why.

  • Learn what research has shown to effectively treat the problem. Although they may not be the ONLY approaches to effective treatment, these are considered to be evidence-based. Here are a few ways to check this out.

So Many Choices…Where do I look?

  • When you know what kind of therapy you seek, check out some different ways to find potential therapists in your area:
  • Know your insurance benefits. Call your behavioral health subscriber’s line and ask for both your in-network and out-of-network benefits (or ask HR).

Pick up the Phone

  • Don’t be shy. Call some of the potential therapists you’ve found and ask questions. Consider asking: How long have you been in practice? Where did you earn your degree? From what theoretical orientation(s) do you practice? Are you familiar with __________ treatment for _________? How long is a typical course of treatment? Tell me a little bit about your training and experience with ___________? Look for them to convey knowledge of that particular treatment, or use of the terminology associated with specific treatments, such as exposure and response prevention or habit reversal training (not just cognitive behavioral therapy).
  • Trust your impressions. Look for a therapist who listens, is responsive, empathic, and available.
  • If you don’t have access to a therapist with specific expertise, choose a therapist who is open to learning and exploring.
  • Choose a therapist who keeps current with psychological treatment trends and research.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Just because a provider is listed in an online database does not mean that they are endorsed by the host organization.
  • Just because someone claims to have skills in the treatment of a particular problem does not meant that they treat from an evidence-based approach.
  • Just because someone is out of your insurance provider network does not mean you will have to pay the fees in their entirety. Often, individuals have out-of-network benefits, meaning that they pay out of pocket for an out-of-network provider and submit their own claims for reimbursement from their insurance company, which reimburses them according to their out-of-network benefit agreement.
  • Therapy shouldn’t be one size fits all. Manualized treatments are used in research out of design necessity, but in practice, therapy should be individualized, even when using specific treatment plans. After all, we are all one-of-a-kind, as are our struggles.
  • Therapy shouldn’t be a mystery. Choose a therapist who explains treatment at the outset and the principles on which the treatment is based.

Best wishes for finding the right therapist for you!

Dr. Deibler

How YOU Can Find an Effective Therapist

Marla W. Deibler, PsyD

Marla W. Deibler, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist and nationally-recognized expert in anxiety disorders and the obsessive-compulsive spectrum, including trichotillomania and other body-focused repetitive behaviors, obsessive-compulsive disorder, hoarding, and tic disorders. She is the Founder and Executive Director of The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia in New Jersey, an outpatient facility specialized in providing evaluation and evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral therapies for these and other difficulties. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of OCD-NJ, the New Jersey affiliate of the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF). Dr. Deibler gained her formative clinical experiences at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Children’s National Medical Center, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center. She gained specialized behavior therapy experience in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders at the nationally-recognized Behavior Therapy Center of Greater Washington. Dr. Deibler served as a clinician at the National Center for Phobias, Anxiety, and Depression. She also served as Director of Behavioral Sciences at the Temple University School of Dentistry and served on the clinical faculty at Temple University Schools of Medicine and Allied Health as well as Temple University Children’s Medical Center. Dr. Deibler has published scientific research in peer-reviewed journals and has presented clinical training seminars and research findings at national and international meetings. She has appeared on the Dr. Oz Show, A&E’s “Hoarders”, TLC’s “Hoarding: Buried Alive”, CBS News, ABC News, FOX News, It’s Your Call with Lynn Doyle (CN8, Retirement TV), and CBS’s “Swift Justice with Nancy Grace”. She has been quoted by media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, CNN, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and the Connecticut Post, among others. Dr. Deibler holds licenses to practice psychology in New Jersey (Lic. No. 35S100438000) and Pennsylvania (Lic. No. PS0157790). She is an active member of the American Psychological Association, Trichotillomania Learning Center, International OCD Foundation, OCD-New Jersey, Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and Anxiety Disorders Association of America. Dr. Deibler resides in suburban Philadelphia with her husband (who is also a psychologist) and three children.

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APA Reference
Deibler, M. (2012). How YOU Can Find an Effective Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Nov 2012
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