Choosing a counselor--Help!

Updated on March 04, 2015
A.B. asks from Shelbyville, KY
8 answers

We have had our son evaluated and diagnosed with high functioning autism (Asperger's). The testing center doesn't do counseling or referrals, but one of the places they recommended was an office we had already researched as a potential resource. We were drawn to that office because they have a doctor on staff who has over a decade experience at a specialized center for autism spectrum disorders, and it is her main focus in her work. The other doctors on staff there don't seem bad, but most of them focus on other areas of need with only one other even mentioning autism in her counseling experience. But it was not listed as her primary interest or focus; it seriously looked like an afterthought that she tossed at the end of her biography. She spent more time talking about how she had been nominated as one of the most successful business people under 40 in our area than on any of her offerings as a therapist. To me, this is worrying.

Although we had been on the waiting list since the beginning of January for the doctor who specializes in autism spectrum disorders, when I called back to confirm the diagnosis with the new patient scheduler, she wouldn't set up an appointment for us, even months in advance. She emailed later that day to say that she wanted to talk to the doctor first and that the soonest they could get us in was the end of April. I understand these things take time, so I responded that it was fine and to please just let us know a date so we could schedule it on our calendars. She called back this afternoon, and suddenly, we can't meet with that doctor at all. Instead, we're being sent to Ms. Most Successful. When I asked why, the scheduler became a bit defensive (I wasn't rude or aggressive; her defensiveness was odd) and said it wasn't like we were being sent to someone second rate and that I could see in her biography that the second doctor would be more than qualified to work with our son. Not feeling entirely comfortable with this arrangement, I went ahead and set up an appointment with the second doctor--this one not until Mid-May.

The more I've thought about it throughout the day, the more it's been bothering me, so I wanted to bounce it off other people who have experience dealing with this sort of thing. Am I wrong to be feeling uneasy about the sudden switch in doctors? Am I being unreasonable that I would like to work specifically with the doctor who deals ALL the time with autism instead of just occasionally? Should I attempt to push the scheduler into giving us an appointment with the original doctor, and if so, how do I do so without angering the gatekeeper and make things harder for our family than they need to be? Or do I need to just find a different group altogether? In short, any help/insight would be great because I'm not quite sure how to navigate this situation. Thanks in advance!

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answers from Washington DC on

wow, i'd be annoyed! when i make an appointment at a multi-doctor practice of any sort, including vets, i want to be able to request the doctor of my choice, and yeah, i get it that sometimes means a wait.
mid-may for the doctor you don't want?
it might be well worth it to drive a far piece to get a doctor with whom you're comfortable. i too would not care for ms toot-her-own-horn.
good luck!

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answers from Washington DC on

I agree with others below--you should be able to see the doctor you want. If you really want to pursue it, find out if the gatekeeper receptionist has a boss you can go to directly. You'll tick off the first person for sure but if it gets you the doctor you need.....

If you don't want to go that route and want to find another practice, do it now, but absolutely do keep that appointment with Dr. Successful on your calendar and theirs while you simultaneously are hunting for another practice. Don't just cancel the Dr. Successful appointment this far out; keep it in your back pocket, so to speak, as your backup.

If you find another practice that can see you sooner and has a doctor with more autism experience -- great, make an appointment with that doctor as soon as possible and THEN cancel with Dr. Successful. But just in case you cannot find another practice by mid-May -- and it sounds as if that might be an issue -- then you would at least have the appointment with Dr. Successful, and could go to her and see what she says at that time. If you like her better than you think you will, you can continue with her, and if she turns out to be a dud, you can say thanks but we won't be back.

Do be sure to check with Dr. Successful's practice now about their cancellation policies; most offices now will charge you a fee, sometimes a stiff one, if you cancel with less than 24 hours' notice, and some specialists want even more notice than that. You don't want to find another doc, then forget to cancel with Dr. Successful and end up paying her anyway....

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answers from Houston on

I learned from my mother that doctors are service providers. Nothing more, nothing less.

You specifically went to this practice to work with the one individual doctor and now you are having to work with the other doctor that you aren't sure about? No, I would not be happy about that.

I would call back and explain that the reason why you contacted them to begin with is so your son could work with this one particular doctor. I would let the scheduler know that you are okay with a wait but that you really want Dr. Autism and not Dr. Most Successful (in her eyes). If she refuses, I would ask to speak to the doctor OR I would say "thank you for your time, I will find another practice that is willing to work with us".

In the end, you are in control. You can decide who works with your son.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Hmm, this does seem odd, but it's possible that it really is just a weird scheduling thing that comes off as insensitive to you (it would to me, too).

Does your insurance allow you to see any of the providers in that group? If so, it does seem weird that they wouldn't simply honor your preference.

It is also possible that in discussing the case, Ms. Most Successful felt that she was a good fit for you and could see you sooner, and just assumed you would be ok with that. Which may be presumptuous, but is not necessarily bad.

Any decent therapist will usually provide a free phone consultation to make sure you are a good fit. I would call and ask for a phone consult with the doc you are scheduled with. Ask her about her experience with aspergers and ask her about her approach with these kiddos. It's possible that she is just so proud of her Most Successful award that she thought patients would care a lot about that, too, and that she actually is a nice person and good doc. Give her a chance to prove you wrong.

If you like her, problem solved. If you don't, call the gatekeeper and let her know that you have some reservations about this doc and would like to consult with the other one. If they have a problem with this, or if they won't do consults to begin with, these are red flags. If that's the case, I would write a letter to the doc you want and explain this whole situation, and see what they do. But honestly, counselors shouldn't make it this hard to get in and to talk with them, if there are other groups, I would look into them (if the above does not work). Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

It sounds like a frustrating situation. You obviously want the best for your son and you were set on a counsellor and now they've changed it. I get why you're frustrated.

I'm wondering if you called the testing center or one of the people you've worked with so far with your son, and ask them if they could recommend a specific counsellor - or if they have information (know of families) who've worked with these counsellors - to help you decide? I usually ask my doctor or someone familiar with the clinics, who they think would be the best fit for my child.

You might hear good things about this counsellor. It might ease your mind.

On the flip side, when we've made appointments with specialists and had them change it so we're seeing someone more junior, I call back and request the more senior one (or more experienced). I also will say that I don't mind waiting, but please put us on a cancellation list. That way, if someone cancels their appointment, you will be called in on short notice. We've saved months of waiting this way.

I wouldn't let the patient scheduler put you off - could be a bad day or maybe it's her job to try to evenly distribute appointments - I don't know how that works, but it has happened to us. Don't feel bad about requesting your preferences though. This is your child so you have every right.

I don't know if you can talk to the counsellors on the phone beforehand (here usually you just go in for your first appointment) but if that's possible, you could request the new one call you if the original one is not available to see you.

Good luck :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

You might want to contact/join a local parents support group and see what experience they have with this group of doctors, and what other resources may be available to you.

You are your child and family's advocate. You are paying for a service to be provided to you. You need to make sure this place is going to fit your families needs in a way that works for you. You are the one to decide if the providers are a good fit for your family, not the other way around.

Going from a service provider model to a business model really cuts the connection between patient and family, and it sounds like that is what this agency is doing. I understand the need for it but when the business starts to manage the provider, I think the quality of care goes down.

I just left my pediatrician of 4+ years bc of this. My first ped retired bc of medical reasons. I was referred to the new one bc he was 'the best. He did have a great bedside manner, talked to (not at) kids, and got an appointment the same day. I did have concerns about his hours: mostly daytime, one evening untill 7, no weekends but my children were a bit older and i thought i could work with that. He was also part of a 'Quick Care Clinic' for after hour emergencies.

My experience remained positive for 2 years. Then there was office staff changes (lots), receptionist not so friendly anymore and next day (for sick) appointments instead of that day. I started to notice all the infants coming and going for appointments.

Then there was a 3 day wait or to go to Quick Care. I did and then suddenly misinformation started coming up on my kids medical charts (allergies to medications that I never reported, etc). Long story short since this fall my kids have not been able to get in to see him. I have talked to the office manager and his scheduling nurse and have gotten no where.

I believe he is focusing on infants only bc they come for regular scheduled appointments and can be fit into his schedule. Any emergencies can be sent to Quick Care. My kids do not deserve that. I want a regular physician who will see them enough to establish a baseline of health.

I believe he is putting the business side of things before service.

If you research him he is still voted as 'the best' and got an award. Grrrrrr....

To make this story even longer :-).......

Just found out my neighbor used to go to him until his nurse screwed up her daughters vaccinations,AND medication. She spoke to him 2x personally regarding quality of care and how hard it is to get an appointment and... No response.

So IMO, listen to your gut, do your research, keep that appointment while you keep doing research, and you determine what is 'the best' fit for your family not other's opinions.

Hope it works out for you

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I don't like this office. Your gut is telling you it's not right. Please call your insurance agency and ask to speak to someone who can talk to you about the therapist/psychologist/mental health professional that works with kids that have similar diagnosis' as your son. This way you'll get a list of docs that can work with your insurance without problems and you can visit with them before deciding on them.

I have always known by looking at the options they have and known if they were someone I'd want to deal with on a weekly basis.

I know your son will get some out of the therapy but counseling won't help him, that's not what your goal is...right?

You'll be getting information from them that will help you work with him better in learning environments, at school and at home, how to deal with episodes where he has melt downs, and other situations. They'll be short term and be able to help you deal with the behaviors that brought you to the evaluation place to begin with.

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answers from Portland on

How old is your child? Have you talked personally with this counselor? If not I suggest you talk with her before you look for someone else. Perhaps you could make a short appointment to speak briefly with her. A written description can sound off but when one meets the person the perspective client finds them ok.

As to why you were given an appointment with this person, call and speak to a supervisor.

As to counseling, my 11 yo autistic grandson benefits in counseling. Due to autism the process takes longer still it helps my grandson and his family.

He saw a psychiatrist to manage his medication and a pediatrition for medical care at the begining. He now has different medical insurance and sees a physician assistant for medication and health issues. She is a specialist in mental health issues including autism.

We have never investigated doctors or counselors in advance and have found them all to be helpful. I have had counseling from before the Internet. I have been fortunate to found all helpful. Sometimes the first counselor isn't a good fit. The first appointment is to find out if you can work together. I suggest the written word is rarely a way to know a person.

Added: I suggest making the appointment with a different doctor may be as simple as the one you want has a full schedule or is on leave. He may have a health issue or is taking a month off or for any number of reasons that the scheduler wouldn't know or wouldn't be authorized to tell you. Did you ask her why you couldn't see the doctor of your choice or tell her you o ly wanted to see this one doctor? I urge you to call and speak to a supervisor.

All to often we take offense without getting the reasons for the answer we don't like. Perhaps she had other calls waiting and felt pressured to get you off the line. Perhaps one of those calls was the school asking her to pick up her child. I try to always give the other person the benefit of doubt.

1 mom found this helpful
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