How to Choose the Right Therapist
By: Milena McMurrin
Many of us may have had the thought at one time or another: “I might benefit from seeing a therapist one day.” I’m going to honor your courage to seek help by laying out 4 tips that could help you choose the right therapist.
Many of us may have had the thought at one time or another:
I might benefit from seeing a therapist one day.
Maybe even more people are having this thought during the crisis of COVID-19. Getting past the first step of even finding a therapist or mental health counselor might be too overwhelming to actually follow through with this thought.
I believe that finding the right therapist can be such a stressful task because of how important this is.
So I’m going to honor your courage to seek help by laying out 4 tips that could help you choose the right therapist.
1. Ask Friends & Family
The first tip is to ask friends and family which therapist they see or which therapist they recommend.
It can be helpful to learn about the experience your friend or family member has had with a therapist to prepare you for what to expect. Even if someone you know recommends a therapist, it is still important to do your research on this therapist.
2. Research Local Therapists
If you don’t feel comfortable revealing to friends and family that you are seeking therapy, do your research on local therapists.
Usually, a mental health counseling center will have a website with a bio about each therapist. This bio might include the therapist’s counseling style, populations they specialize in, education, credentials, and even more. At Charis Counseling Center, we provide new clients a free 15-minute phone consultation with the therapist he or she is interested in seeing. This provides the opportunity for the client to see how comfortable they might feel with the therapist.
Donna White from PsychCentral discusses that:
During this time you can ask important questions about [the therapist’s] treatment philosophy, how they have worked to help others and how they feel they can help you, or any other important questions you may have.
Just because a therapist is qualified and has credentials and has success, does not necessarily guarantee that he or she is the right match for every client.
3. Look at Specific Experience or Specializations
When looking for a therapist, it can also be helpful to look at the specific experience or specializations a therapist might have, such as working with eating disorders, teens, children, OCD, etc.
You might find that a specific therapist has experience in exactly what you are seeking counseling for.
If you really want to dig deep into the research, you can even start looking at what treatment modality the therapist uses, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, person-centered therapy, EMDR, psychodynamic therapy, and more.
Some therapists are licensed and some are not (the ones who are not licensed are being supervised by certified, licensed therapists until they meet a certain number of hours). If you are seeking a licensed therapist, you can check with the state licensure board to see if there have been or are any complaints filed against a specific therapist before starting therapy. This may not be necessary, but it is always an option.
4. Trust your Instinct
The last bit of advice for finding the right therapist is to trust your instinct.
It is important to recognize how you feel when you are talking to the therapist. Maybe ask yourself:
- Do I feel judged when I speak?
- Do I feel listened to?
- Do I feel comfortable or uneasy in the room?
If a therapist has all the right credentials and experience, but you feel uneasy in the room, it might be time to find a new therapist. Studies show that the therapeutic relationship is the most important aspect of successful therapy.
When it comes down to it, the only expert on you is you, so trust your gut.