Dr. Carol Goldberg
How do you know if you need professional help?
A person needs professional
help when not able to manage satisfactorily.
Indicators can be the same whether problems are emotional,
physical, legal, or financial:
overwhelmed, trapped, worried, agitated, depressed, or out of
health, work, sleep, eating, relationships, or legal situation
to stop harmful behavior (including addictions)
if it is an
emergency (such as chest pains or feeling suicidal), seek immediate
attention from a hospital
emergency room or police. If it is not an emergency, read on for advice.
How can you find the right professional?
Check state licensure and
violations on your state government’s Internet site.
A licensed professional
has at least
minimum credentials and knowledge that have been examined by the
state more thoroughly than you could do
is required to
abide by ethics and privacy (may include privilege)
reported if you have a complaint
legal status (may be important
for insurance coverage, court, custody, taxes)
do not have these protections with unlicensed people.
Note not all professions are licensed.
Licensure is by state, may change, and should be checked from time to
York State’s website address is www.op.nysed.gov.
In New York State, psychologists, physicians,
nurses, social workers, dentists, occupational therapists, physical
therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, attorneys, and CPAs are some
of the licensed (or equivalently certified) professions.
can be very specific. For instance, “certified athletic trainer” is a regulated
profession, but “trainer” is not.
In N.Y., titles such as “therapist” and “coach” are not licensed,
can be used by anyone (whether or not trained and experienced), and lack
Furthermore, functions (such as psychotherapy) can be limited
to licensed professionals under what are called "scope of practice
Check whether letters after a person’s name, official sounding
organizations and universities, and specialty Board Certification are
bona fide by
asking state boards for guidance.
Find out if the licensed professional has
training and experience with your type of problem.
Be sure the fee is clear and affordable for
you. If you cannot afford
it, you may be able to get help from public clinics, agencies, and
Finally, use your comfort to decide if a
particular professional is right for you.
you treated respectfully?
you listened to and your concerns taken seriously?
you have a similar pace?
the professional defensive if you ask questions or want a second
you are not comfortable with a particular professional, go to someone
What about finding help from the Internet?
The Internet provides lots
of information, but currently is an unregulated grab bag.
Thus, the consumer must be especially careful about the quality
of information and qualifications of professionals on the Internet.
While there are no guarantees, information from the following
sources are likely to be the best :
sites such as www.nlm.nih.gov
professional journals (peer reviewed)
newspapers, news agencies, and television stations
of licensed professionals
non-profit organizations (such as dedicated to a particular illness
or public service)
without conflicts of interest (research that is not paid for by an
advertiser or commercial company with a vested interest in the
Be wary of sites that refuse to provide details about identity. You can judge a site by its content and the company it keeps
(ads and links to other sites).
In addition to being cautious about information, be cautious
about online therapy and other professional sounding services.
You cannot be sure with whom you are communicating. What is on your computer could be used against
you. Furthermore, privacy
cannot be guaranteed because the Internet is subject to abuse and
break-ins by hackers.
The person you consult on the Internet may not have any
example, anyone can use the title “therapist” or “coach” because
they are not licensed professions in New York State.
Since licensure is by state and the Internet crosses state lines,
practitioners may be unlicensed or hide their credentials.
Even if a professional is licensed, Internet services by that
professional may not be regulated by laws, provide protections, or have
With online therapy, there are the
following additional limitations. Online
therapy lacks the most important ingredient for successful therapy, the
relationship between client and therapist.
Client commitment and openness may be lacking. Typed messages limit spontaneity and cues.
A self-report of being overweight could hide anorexia since
extremely thin people with that condition really believe they are overweight.
Alcohol on breath would not be noticed.
In contrast with the tremendous amount of experience and research
which exists about in-person therapy, online therapy is a vast unknown.
In the future, there may be improved technology to transmit good
visual cues, better privacy safeguards, and online therapy techniques
with proven effectiveness. Meanwhile,
unless living in a remote area, online therapy can be settling for less
than the best or risking harm.
Copyright 2000 by Carol Goldberg, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
information on this topic presented by Dr. Goldberg