How to Choose a Therapist (Who Is Right for You)

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Sometimes life can be overwhelming. Sometimes you have self-defeating thoughts that won’t go away. Sometimes your personal problems are too stressful to handle alone. You’re ready to take the first step, to get help from a therapist, but you don’t know how to find one and how to choose a therapist that’s right for you.

 

How to Find A Therapist

There’s no right or wrong way to approach your search for a therapist. Sometimes a chance run-in with a friend or relative provides the answer, and sometimes you have to make some inquiries and do a little research to get started.

If you feel comfortable with close friends, relatives, people you know and trust in the helping profession, approach them to ask for their help. Maybe you know a few who are themselves seeing a therapist or who have a friend or relative who is. If you’d rather not pursue a therapist who is being seen by someone you know, perhaps they can ask their therapist for a referral.

Another way to locate a therapist is to visit websites of therapist associations. Some have a database of therapist members by area or zip code. I’m a member of Psychology Today and GoodTherapy.

 

Selecting Your Therapist

If you received a name of a therapist from a friend or someone close to you, ask them if they like their therapist and what specifically they like about them. Make a list of preferences for therapists. Therapists have different therapy orientations. Decide what type of therapy you feel would be most helpful or not helpful.

Is gender important to you? If so, decide which gender you prefer working with, male or female.

If you’re starting from scratch, type “find a therapist” in a search engine. Pull up websites and look around. Then refine your search by reading reviews from reputable sources. Look for reviews and testimonials from independent sources that relate to the type of problems you’re trying to get help for.

Find a therapist who specializes in the kinds of problems you are dealing with (examples: marriage or relationship therapists, substance abuse therapists, anxiety, depression.

Visit potential therapists’ social media sites. Collectively, these sites give you a snapshot of the therapist’s personality, style, activities, testimonials, and feedback from others.

Look for therapists who are accredited and licensed to be sure your therapist has met educational and licensing requirements, is up-to-date in their training, and can be held to a code of ethics and practice in dealing with clients.

Look for therapists whose focus isn’t on selling themselves but rather those who focus on telling you about their therapy orientation, specialties, their philosophy, and about how they work with clients.

If you have a health plan that includes behavioral health visits, go to your health insurance provider and search to see what therapists are a part of your plan or are “in network.”

Look for therapists in your area, but be willing to drive a little further to find the therapists that seem to make the best fit. Just because a therapist is close by should not be the sole reason to choose them.

If you placed a call to some therapist offices, was whoever answered the phone helpful, friendly? Did they answer all your questions? Did they rush through the conversation? If you left a voicemail, did the therapist or their staff respond in a timely manner?

 

Questions to Ask Your New Therapist

If you’re not sure about which therapeutic orientation would be best for you, ask a prospective therapist to explain their approach. You may have to make an appointment with a prospective therapist. Discuss with them what you want to accomplish and whether they are the best therapist to help you do that – if not them. 

 

How to Know Your Therapist Is the Right One

  • Talk, listen and use your judgment and intuition.
  • Are they understanding and supportive? Warm and personable? Do they seem knowledgeable?
  • Do they pay attention, give you their undivided attention. Do they periodically glance at a clock on the wall or their cell phone, have interruptions during your session?
  • Notice how you feel in the therapist’s presence. Are there are any red flags, any ethical issues starting to arise? These may signal that this therapist isn’t right for you. With that said, sometimes an uncomfortable feeling might be motivated by some unconscious discomfort that relates to your problem, not the therapist, in which case, maybe this therapist might be just what you need.
  •  If things don’t seem to be working out with your therapist, don’t hang on too long before making a switch. If you don’t feel you’re making progress, change therapists. If you do change therapists, you don’t want to have lost a lot of time and have to start the process over at day one.