The Right Therapist for Perinatal Emotional Challenges

Don’t settle for the wrong therapist! It sounds so obvious, but this phenomenon happens much too often. My colleagues and I have seen it throughout the years, and it’s quite unfortunate. When Mom or Dad with postpartum depression (PPD) settles for an inexperienced and under educated professional – just because the therapist is covered under their insurance — the whole family suffers. It’s never worth it.

Let’s be clear – the insurance therapist might be excellent at other things, but if he or she isn’t trained specifically in the perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, you need to find someone who is. Don’t skimp – your mental health is much too important for your entire family. The unspecialized therapist is not appropriate for this particular time in your life.

Wonderful therapists throughout the years have referred their pregnant and postpartum clients to me and my colleagues in order to help their clients through the perinatal period. When the crisis has passed and their clients are well on their way to recovery with our help, they can begin working with their original therapists again.

Becoming a specialist on an insurance panel simply means checking a box – there is no documentation that’s required. Working with an untrained therapist can, frankly, not only force the family to suffer longer but also the parent can be made worse. Instead of finding the right therapist quickly and getting your head (and life) back quickly, moms and dads frequently go from therapist to therapist within the insurance company, wasting precious time – time they could be enjoying their families.

How much is getting yourself back worth to you? Which would you prefer – only paying a co-pay for many months and still not recovering or paying out of pocket for two or three months and feeling much better?

Sometimes we specialists want to compassionately yet firmly shake parents who hesitate getting the right help due to paying out of pocket. Look at it this way — if your baby needs a specialist who isn’t covered by insurance, you wouldn’t hesitate to get the right help! You’d sell your furniture or eat spaghetti every night in order to pay for the necessary treatment. But, often parents — especially when depressed and don’t feel worth it — just settle for someone in their insurance. Don’t assume you won’t be able to afford the specialist. Ask if she/he has a sliding scale or offers a payment plan. You might be happily surprised.

As Postpartum Depression For Dummies and Beyond the Blues discusses, there is an easy way to interview a prospective therapist – whether inside or outside your insurance — by asking a few key questions. Don’t be worried about offending anyone — if the therapist becomes defensive when you ask these, it is an immediate clue to move on!

First, here are a couple of questions that are basically useless:

  1. DO NOT ask your insurance, “Is there a therapist who specializes in depression during pregnancy (or postpartum)?”  Your insurance will always answer “yes,” since undoubtedly at least one therapist has checked that box, with or without the proper training.
  2. And, DO NOT ask the therapist, “Do you work with pregnant (or postpartum) women who are depressed?” Even the inexperienced or untrained therapist might have worked with depressed parents, whether or not they should have. The answer might be “yes,” but that won’t give you enough relevant information.

Here are some of the most important questions. DO ASK the therapist:

  1. “What organizations do you belong to that are specifically focused on maternal mental health?” The therapist should belong to Postpartum Support International, The Marce Society, or both.
  2. “What books do you recommend to parents suffering with PPD?” The therapist should have a number of books she can rattle off the top of her head.
  3. “What type of therapy do you use?” Cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy or interpersonal therapy are short-term treatments that are appropriate for treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders such as PPD.
  4. “How much specific training have you received in treating PPD or related conditions?” Hopefully the therapist has, at a minimum, attended the Postpartum Support International 2-day training.

If you can find a therapist within your insurance who passes inspection, and most of all truly understands what you’re going through and can offer you a practical wellness strategy, great! Consider yourself very lucky. But if not, do whatever you have to do to pay for a well-trained expert. It’s the most loving and responsible thing you can do for your whole family.

Image Credit: Micky**

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