Finding a Therapist

Today, I’m back at the therapist search. After moving, I ended up losing a great therapist who specialized in cults and destructive groups. She’s not accepting new patients, so that’s a bummer.

Searching for a therapist is HARD work. Right now, I’m fortunate to have two things I didn’t have before: a job and health insurance. This makes the search WAY easier.

Up until now, I’ve had to search for a therapist who offered a sliding scale (they offer you counseling services for as little as $10 a session based on your income) or attend therapy at my University Counseling Center (which were free, up to 8 sessions).

I’m now searching for a therapist who specializes in cults, PTSD or anxiety. How do I know to search for that? Well, I’ve been fortunate enough to see a psychologist and psychiatrist in my days (thanks to Kaiser Permanente and CSUN’s Counseling Center), and those have been the diagnoses. So, I try to narrow down my search to someone who deals primarily with those issues. Also, take time to familiarize yourself with terms such as CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) which is what your therapist will most likely use.

If you haven’t already done so, check out International Cultic Studies Association. They provide resources, articles and this helpful page on How To Find a Therapist.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers some information on PTSD, including Finding and Choosing a Therapist. Here, I went to Anxiety Disorders Association of America, where you can do a local search for therapists who specialize in anxiety disorders. Also recommended by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is Sidran: Help for Post Traumatic Stress and Dissociative Conditions. There’s an article on the site called What to look for and how to choose a therapist.

After looking at various resources from NAMI to Psychology Today, my advice is simple.

  • If budget is an option (if you have little to no working budget for therapy), ask around for referrals from a University or a city/county mental health office. If you can’t find individual therapy free or low cost, consider group therapy or classes in your area.
  • Look for someone who specializes in your specific issue. Do some research. Know what your symptoms mean, or at least have an idea before you go.
  • Be picky. If you don’t feel comfortable with the therapist you chose, there’s nothing contractually binding you to stay in that relationship. If they’re not qualified, or tend to give you the impression they’re not a good fit, feel free to ask them for a referral.
  • Go as often as you feel comfortable, or as often as you can afford.
  • Remember that attending therapy is good for us (cult survivors) but it’s also something that can reopen existing wounds. Make sure you have a good support system of friends and family members who understand that this may be an emotional time for you. Sometimes an hour session can bring up emotions that last hours, days or weeks. Don’t be afraid of this, but just realize it’s normal for this to happen.
  • You might find it helpful to write things down. I keep notes of events I remember that I want to speak to my therapist about. I journal after visiting the therapist about what we talked about and any thoughts I had about it.
  • TIME HEALS and time changes things. Sometimes it takes years of therapy, years of talking about something traumatic, and even medication or alternative treatments to see improvement. Be patient with yourself. Don’t expect change to come over night, but do keep working toward it and preserve your energy for positive improvement, positive relationships and a positive future.

5 thoughts on “Finding a Therapist”

  1. I was in a Cult too and finding a good therapist is difficult, the trama you go thru varies from cult to cult but it is all spiritual, however a “Christian therapist”is NOT alway the best thing to open up and jump into!

    I found that the goal is the same,and doesn’t allow the patient to discover there self awareness.
    However in the long run after it was all said and done I wanted to keep the faith

    1. East Coast Snowbird,
      I COMPLETELY agree with you regarding a Christian therapist. My suggestion, and I didn’t mention this, is to visit a secular therapist as opposed to a Christian therapist.

      Many cults and unhealthy groups use mind control tactics and phrases that include scripture in them or scriptural teaching, whether it’s twisted or just directly quoted.

      I think the main thing is to ensure your psychological recovery and maintain physical health. If one would like to work on spiritual issue simultaneously or afterward, I would suggest to do so, but I think they should be pursued separately.

      It’s also good to seek someone who respects your opinions, but isn’t biased toward or against Christianity.

  2. Good suggestions, Lisa. After my husband and I left a Bible-based cult, we saw a therapist who specialized in abuse issues. (There aren’t very many counselors who have any experience with former cult members). She helped us a lot so I just wanted to add that to your recommendations.
    Thanks for posting this information – I am planning to forward it to some folks I know.

    1. Wduncan19,
      Thanks so much for your input.

      It’s true that it’s rare to find therapists who specialize in cults.

      What else could you recommend to those who are thinking about therapy? How important do you think it is for someone leaving a cult to get some therapy?

  3. an ex cullt member/friend pointed me to a counselor here in my city, who specialized @ one time in exiting satanic members, so she and her partner are very well versed with cults abuse and recovery. i also see a Christian counselor who was once in a psychotherapist cult and she’s read both of Steve’s books and has versed with him and the MeadowHaven folks. Are you still looking?

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