FINDING THE RIGHT THERAPIST
You can ask your doctor to refer you to a Cognitive Therapist but there may be a waiting list. The other alternative is to go privately. If you are worried about the cost consider the benefits. CBT can help change your life in as little as 6 to 8 sessions. Even if it were to cost several hundred pounds wouldn’t it be worth it? What will the cost be emotionally and financially if this problem continues?
MAKE SURE YOU FIND A CERTIFIED COGNITIVE THERAPIST
There are many health professionals nowadays who are taking very brief courses in CBT and saying they are qualified to practice CBT. Check online to see if any of the major CBT organisations list certified therapists in your area.
In the UK you could try BABCP (www.babcp.com)
In the USA you can search for a mental health professional near you who is certified by the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists. (http://nacbt.org/searchfortherapists.asp)
MAKING THE FIRST APPOINTMENT
When you phone to make an appointment you may be speaking to a secretary who will take your details. They may ask you about the nature of the problem but it is ok if you don’t want to say. Just say – “I’d rather discuss that when I see the therapist”
When you make an appointment to see a Cognitive Therapist you may be asked to write out a ‘problem list’. This is a brief list of the problems that are bringing you to therapy.
This is very helpful when first meeting the therapist especially if you are nervous and are finding it hard to describe how you have been feeling. Even if you aren’t asked to bring one it is helpful to make one anyway.
The first session is called an ‘assessment session’ where the therapist will give you a brief introduction to CBT and explain about confidentiality.
The therapist will go over your problem list – ask some questions – give you some clinical understanding the problem and how it might be treated You will be asked to fill in some basic questionnaires that will ascertain your levels of anxiety and your mood – you will fill these in each week to keep a check on any change in the levels.
You may be given some simple homework for the following week – such as reading over any information sheets.
The therapist will take notes – simply as a reminder of what was discussed and as useful feedback of how you progress throughout the sessions.
From the second session onwards your therapist may give you a clearer idea of a ‘treatment plan’. This will explain that the course of your sessions will be divided into four main areas.
It can be a bit scary when therapy comes to an end because you will worry what will happen if you do relapse. It is perfectly ok to ask your therapist to have another session in a months time just to go over everything again.
HOMEWORK BETWEEN SESSIONS
CBT is an ACTIVE recovery therapy – while the weekly session is important – it’s just as important that you work on what you are learning BETWEEN sessions. In fact much of the success of CBT is due to the fact that it is an ongoing process and not just one hour per week of therapy. Basically, the more work YOU put in the more you get out of it.
IT’S OK TO CHANGE THERAPISTS
If for any reason you don’t feel happy with the therapist it is PERFECTLY OK to cancel the sessions and look for another therapist. Therapists realise that they may not ‘connect’ with everyone and that it is better that their clients find someone they feel more comfortable with. But keep in mind that it may take a few sessions before you feel comfortable discussing your problems.
IF THERAPY IS GOING ON TOO LONG
Panic Disorder is usually treated from 6 to 15 sessions. If you are still attending therapy beyond 15 sessions and don’t feel that you have made much progress then you may want to question if the therapist is treating you correctly or if you are not putting in enough homework between sessions.