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Finding Mental Health Help that Really Helps!

Who isn’t affected by cancer?

Here’s the thing: finding a good therapist is not like finding a good furniture store. Finding a good therapist is more like finding a good band. What is good music to someone else may be noise to you, and vice versa. Also, even if you read a great review, or hear a snippet of a band, you won’t really know if that band is for you until you go out and experience them yourself. Part of your decision will be based on the training and focus of your potential therapist.

What is the difference between a Psychiatrist, Psychologist and Licensed Clinical Social worker?

Therapists go though different levels of training to earn different titles. Three important categories are:

Psychiatrists are medical doctors, with a specialty in mental health issues. Only medical doctors are allowed to prescribe medication, like anti-anxiety drugs. Although psychiatrists are specifically trained to provide medications to address emotional problems, most psychiatrists do not provide ongoing therapy; rather, they assess emotional difficulties, prescribe medications, when necessary, and refer people to psychologists, or LCSWs, for therapy, if needed.

The differences between psychologists and LCSWs reflect their academic training. Psychologists have a Ph.D and are typically trained in three areas of expertise: psychological testing, research, and therapy. Only psychologists are trained to administer psychological tests. Generally, LCSWs train primarily in psychotherapy.

Remember,there is no substitute for obtaining a personal recommendation, and matching a therapist to your personal needs.

Begin with recommendations from people you know and trust. Your source could be a medical doctor or oncologist, but it could just as easily be a friend, who has a trusted therapist.

Here are some things to keep in mind when ‘auditioning’ a therapist:

  • Do I feel comfortable with this person?
  • Do I feel understood, both intellectually and emotionally?
  • Does my therapist’s plan to work with your struggles make sense to me?
  • Am I comfortable with how this therapist responds to my questions? Ask questions, and feel free to disagree, or question his/her plan.
  • Will my insurance cover meetings with the therapist? If not, what is the cost?

Consider auditioning a few therapists before you decide. A good therapist doesn’t need to be a ‘cancer expert’ to help you. Like music, you will know it when you feel it!

You can start your search for a therapist with some information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology or from goodtherapy.org.

Can a support group help?

CancerDancer has resources for online support groups. They are great for reminding you you’re not alone; many women have made this journey before you and they stand ready to help. The same rules apply to groups, though. Audition, don’t be afraid to question, and if it doesn’t feel right for you, it probably isn’t.

In addition to referrals from your medical team or local support websites, community mental health centers also have referral lists. These are just rough starting points,though. Even the most well-meaning authority can only steer you in the right direction…you must decide for yourself if that particular music is for you!

Good luck!


Dr. Sanford Cassel works as a psychotherapist, executive coach, collaborative child specialist and collaborative coach. He is committed to helping children, adolescents and adults clarify, and remove impediments to realizing, their own dreams and desires. Dr. Cassel can be reached through his website.





Copyright 2012 by CancerDancer