When searching for the right therapist, it can seem like an endless list of professionals who all sound great in their own unique way. How do you know which one is the right fit for you? There are articles available online that offer some great recommendations. Many are from the perspective of clients who have gone through the process of finding a therapist. This article is from the perspective of a therapist, because there isn’t enough information available to help people know how to interview prospective therapists to narrow down the search. Research continues to prove that the most effective part of therapy is the strength of the therapeutic relationship that the client has with the therapist. Which makes sense right, if you don’t really feel like you’re vibing with your therapist, you probably won’t really want to talk about vulnerable things or try skills they want to teach you.
Most people tend to look for a therapist when they feel like they need help and are usually not feeling their strongest or in control of things. So many start searching on directories looking for someone who “looks like a good fit.” In my experience this can be a great way to start. When one lets their intuition lead the way, they tend to find someone that calls to them or they feel like they can connect with. Also, from a therapist perspective, a lot of thought goes into what is written on our profiles. There isn’t a lot of space to write, so it is important for us to narrow down the type of clients we feel we work most effectively with. Now there are always some that with take any client that will come to them, but this seems to be the exception not the majority. Learning to trust yourself and what your intuition feels is right can be an effective way to find the right person for the job. A newer perspective in the therapy world is to treat “episodes of care.” There tends to be a stigma that once you start therapy, you will be in therapy for the rest of your life. This is just not accurate in this day and age. Depending on your needs, it can be resolved in as little as 4-8 sessions. Obviously, this varies per person, but the reality is that most situations can see results quickly. After that it is just implementing and practicing new ways of living. So finding someone based on your intuition can help with needs in the moment.
Other times people are looking for someone that they can process through deep rooted issues that they have been holding for years. In these situations, my recommendation is to take the perspective of being the boss who is looking to hire an employee for a job. I find that this is empowering for the individual as they are coming from a position of power and are looking to fill the position of helping them with the task of working through their stuff. Just as a CEO of a company would hire a talented professional to do their accounting. The CEO may not have accounting experience, so they are looking for someone who does that can help them reach their vision for their company. Here are some steps to help with this process.
- Think about what is important you. Start with simple things like age and gender, do you prefer a male, female, transgender, non-binary gender, etc.
- Begin creating a vision of what it will be like when therapy is done. How do you want to feel? What is different in your life?
- Explore different specialties. TherapyDen.com is a directory to find a therapist in your area, and they seem to do a better job than other directories at offering more specialties and the ability to search based on specialty. Examples of specialties include specializing in holistic therapy, anxiety, trauma, domestic violence, sexuality, family/couples’ therapy, caregiver fatigue, career counseling, etc. For a more inclusive list visit TherapyDen.com.
- Start researching local directories. Approach reading their profile like reading a resume. Keep your needs and goals at the front of your mind. I recommend finding at least 3-5 therapist that you are interested in interviewing.
- Start scheduling interviews. Most therapist offer a free consultation to have an opportunity to ask questions, get a feel for each other, and hear their approach to helping you. We are all human with strengths and weaknesses, so even though we may use the same modality or approach as someone else, it may feel different as we use our different strengths.
- Create a list of questions to ask.
- Some examples of the basic important questions are cost/session, do they take insurance, availability, are they currently accepting new clients, options for services-in person/at the office/in-home services/online/telephone, and years of experience.
- Examples of more in depth questions are what their approach is, how they will support you and help keep you safe as you explore this vulnerability, are they open to feedback to improve your therapeutic relationship, and support that is available outside of the session.
- After each interview make a list of what you liked and didn’t like about that experience and jot down some notes.
- If there is one you felt connected with, schedule an appointment. If you didn’t feel like any of them were right, start again with researching and interviewing. This part can feel daunting, but the more work you put in on the front end the happier you will be with the results.
Finding the right therapist can feel like an overwhelming task, especially when you are already going through a lot. However, just getting started can make the process easier and less heavy. There are many therapists that are happy to help connect you with the right resources, even if they aren’t the right fit.