The process of starting therapy can be daunting, and a major part of the stress is selecting a good therapist. It can be difficult to know with whom you will have a positive experience. The tips below are intended to help guide your search.
1.) Take the time to research. Looking into potential therapists will give you a sense of who it is you’ll be working with. Check out the provider’s website, Psychology Today profile, other online directories, and/or call their office and ask questions directly.
2.) Request a consultation. Most therapists offer a free meeting where potential clients can talk to the provider directly and see if the therapist will be a good fit for them. Consultations are about 30 minutes and can be done over the phone or in the therapist’s office.
3.) Learn about the therapist’s specialty. Therapists are like doctors in the sense doctors are very specialized. If you have a heart problem, you see a cardiologist. If you have cancer, you see an oncologist. If you have a stomach problem, you see a gastroenterologist. Therapists specialize in certain diagnoses, populations, or therapy modalities. Find someone that specializes in the issue you want to address. If you have been through something traumatic, find a trauma therapist. If you struggle with addiction, find a substance abuse specialist. If you have panic attacks, find an anxiety therapist. If you are looking for therapy for an tween or teen, find a therapist that specializes in adolescence.
4.) Learn about the therapist’s theoretical orientation. Therapy can be done a multitude of different ways. It’s important that your therapist is working from a theoretical framework to bring consistency and efficacy to therapy. It may give you even more peace of mind if the orientation is “evidence-based” meaning significant research has been completed that suggests the orientation is effective. Learn how the orientation will play out in sessions-What does it look like? What can you expect? What’s the purpose of the orientation? How does it produce change?
5.) Consider gender, age, years in practice, etc. These items can help ensure comfortability with your therapist. If you are generally uncomfortable being open and vulnerable with men, then a female therapist will likely suit you better. If you are young and have a hard time relating to older adults, you may want to look for someone who is younger.
6.) Notice professionalism. If you call or email a therapist to learn more about them, do they respond to you in a reasonable amount of time? Do they respond at all? If not, these can be signs the provider is unorganized, unprofessional, or doesn’t have good office systems in place which can translate to a poor experience in therapy for you.
7.) Don’t prioritize convenience over quality. Insurance and location are two conveniences that potential clients can over-emphasize. If you find the perfect therapist, but he/she doesn’t take your insurance, it is very likely worth paying out of pocket for services and checking into your out of network benefits to see if you can get reimbursed. If you find the perfect therapist, but they are not located close to you, the commute is worth it. Plus, you’ll get some extra time in the car on the drive home to reflect further about your session.
8.) How did you feel when you interacted with your potential therapist? This evaluation requires a bit of intuition. Were you comfortable? Did you feel like this person could help you? Were you concerned about their professionalism? If you left the interaction with all your questions answered and feeling good about the therapist, that’s a good sign you will work well together.
9.) Don’t settle. If you had high hopes for a potential therapist, but they left you feeling like something was missing, don’t ignore that concern. Keep the search going. Even if you start with a therapist, and you’re a couple sessions in, if you don’t like the dynamic, you are able to end therapy at any time and look for another provider.
If you have questions about finding a therapist and/or what to look for, I’d love to chat with you. Please give our office a call, and we can discuss further.