Finding a therapist can feel overwhelming. Where do you start? How do you know if the therapist that you select will be able to help you? Most people seek out a mental health professional when they are feeling vulnerable. For this reason, it can be a particularly daunting task. When it comes to choosing a therapist, it is important that you feel confident that you have chosen a competent provider. In fact, research shows that this connection with your therapist is a greater determinant of therapy success than any specific technique or approach (Hubbel, Duncan, and Miller 1999). Below are some suggestions to help you find what you are looking for.
Do you know what you are you looking for?
Whether you are new to therapy or have been to therapy before, it can be helpful to start your journey with some self-reflection questions.
Why are you seeking therapy?
What are you hoping to gain from doing therapy?
Do you want individual, family, or couples therapy?
What are some of the qualities that you are looking for in a therapist (i.e. supportive, validating, direct, willing to challenge you)?
If you have been to therapy in the past, what worked and what didn’t?
Is there a certain therapy technique or specific therapy modalities that you are looking for (i.e. CBT, Mindfulness, Brief Solutions Focused, EMDR, Play Therapy, IFS…etc.)? It is okay if you don’t know!
There are many ways to find a therapist, you just need to do some research. You can ask your psychiatrist or doctor for a referral, contact your insurance company or employee assistance plan, ask around, or do an online search. Many therapists now have online profiles that allow you to learn more about them. For a listing of Covenant Family Solutions therapists click here.
Do some dialing
Once you have discovered some potential therapists, now it is time to take your research to the next level. Many therapists offer free consultations or phone screenings. These usually last 5-15 minutes and are not designed to provide you with therapy, but to help you get a feel for the therapist’s personality and style. You can use your awareness from the questions you answered above to generate your own questions for the therapist. It is also a good idea to verify that the therapist takes your insurance or discuss payment options.
The first time I meet a prospective client I usually explain that this is an opportunity for them to assess me while I assess them. It is okay to be unsure whether the therapist will be a good fit for you after that first session. Sometimes it can take three or more sessions to make that connection. In the first session, therapists tend to ask a lot of questions to assess what is going on and how best to approach treatment. It is also an opportunity for you to ask any questions that you might have about the therapy process or questions that you have generated from the your self reflection.
It’s not me, it’s you
Do you feel comfortable with the therapist that you selected? Remember, it is about the connection. Most therapists understand that they are not going to be the perfect fit for every client and we would also like to see you get the help that you need. Likewise, a good therapist will let you know if they do not think that they would be a good fit or don't have the skill set to treat your particular needs. They can provide you with referrals to therapists that can be of help.
Don’t give up!
If at first you don’t find the right therapist, try again! It is better to find what you are looking for than to try to stick it out with a therapist that isn’t a good fit. That said, sometimes it’s matter of communicating with the therapist what you are needing from them. It may be that a small shift in approach can make a big difference.
Hubble, M.; B.L. Duncan and S.D. Miller, eds. (1999) The Heart & Soul of Change: What Works in Therapy. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
About the Writer - Devona Siron, LISW
Devona has extensive experience providing therapy to adults and teenagers through the use of evidence based therapy techniques including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solutions Focused Therapy, and EMDR. She believes in drawing upon her client’s unique strengths to empower them and assist in identifying where change or growth is needed. Areas of focus include depression, anxiety, major and minor traumatic life events, self-esteem, body image, binge eating, stress management and adjusting to life changes.