For people with mental health struggles, visiting a therapist can help provide vital insight and support to help them work through their challenges.
But with some 4,500 licensed mental health counselors in Massachusetts, many of them with appealing but limited online listings, how do patients find the right therapist for their specific situations?
That question is at the heart of a new venture by Hopkinton resident David R. Kraus, Ph.D., president and chief scientific officer of Outcome Referrals, Inc. in Framingham.
He has launched a website, matchedtherapists.com, that strives to pair up patients with therapists who can match their needs.
The site uses a scientific process to determine a therapist’s strengths and weaknesses, something Kraus said is difficult for medical professionals to assess on their own.
This scientific process has been tested in health care’s first randomized clinical trial of a referral process and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) psychiatric magazine.
“Therapists believe they know what they are good at,” Kraus said. But in fact, the correlation between what therapists think they are good at and their actual outcome data is essentially “zero,” he said.
The right match is crucial, he added. A therapist, for example, might be good at working with depression but not have experience in treating patients with addiction.
Working with a mismatched therapist is “like playing basketball in the dark,” he said.
“Few, if any, therapists are good at everything,” Kraus stated. “The key is finding an exceptional therapist for each individual, or more specifically, finding someone who is great at treating the very same issues with which each patient needs help.”
A good match between therapist and patients matters greatly, he said, because patients often share their most private information. “You cannot do this hard work with someone you don’t respect, don’t get along with or someone who just rubs you the wrong way,” he said.
The site, which is free for patients to use, represents “a way for the public to find a well-matched provider,” he said.
This information can make all the difference in a good match, which can lead to better outcomes.
“Otherwise it’s all just a guess,” he said.