How to Choose a Therapist: Several things to consider.
Finding the ‘best’ therapist for you can be a daunting process. It is a highly personal and individual choice and definitely NOT one-size-fits all. Therefore, it's important to choose someone you like and trust so you will feel comfortable sharing openly and honestly. Your therapist should also be highly skilled and capable of helping you make progress towards your goals in a way that feels respectful and fulfilling. But how do you find this therapist? How do you know which one to choose?
First, gather the name and contact information of at least 3 therapists from family, friends, colleagues or internet searches.
Next, request a free consultation to learn more about them and their practice. If you prefer to meet your potential therapist in person prior to scheduling your first session, see if they are open to having you come into the office. Although this might not be be super convenient, it should give you a sense of whether or not the setting feels right to you. However, meeting in person is not essential -- unless it's important for YOU. During each consultation, whether on-line or in person, keep these 5 guidelines handy to help you determine which therapist is the best one for you!
1) Trust Your Gut!
A strong connection between you and your therapist will significantly contribute to successful therapy. You must feel comfortable with the PERSON you are working with. Your gut and your heart will tell you whether this is or is not the case. Trust yourself! Pay attention to your initial reaction when the conversation begins.
~ Does the therapist feel friendly and welcoming?
~ Do they put you at ease?
~ Do they answer your questions easily and completely?
~ Do you feel they are attentive to your conversation and interested in knowing you?
~ Do you feel they understands you and your needs?
~ Are they easy for you to relate to?
If the answer to these questions is YES, keep talking! If NO, keep dialing or Googling.
2) Is the therapist Licensed?
Choosing a therapist who is currently Licensed will assure you they have met the State requirements for education, training and clinical experience necessary to be an effective and ethical therapist for you. If your potential therapist is still in training or working towards licensure, ask for more information so you can decide whether or not you feel comfortable with their level of experience. The advantage of working with a pre-licensed therapist is that they frequently work on a cash basis at a rate that's far below market value for fully licensed therapists. Some will have extensive life experience in related fields or might be "transferring" a license from a different state, and were required to work under supervision for a period of time to ensure that they meet the rigorous standards for licensure in your state.
If you feel comfortable with their experience, keep talking! If not, keep dialing or Googling.
3) What are the therapist's areas of expertise?
Connecting with a therapist whose clinical training matches your therapy goals is important! For example, if you are looking for
relationship counseling, you wouldn’t be best served by a therapist who specializes only in child play therapy, nor vice versa. However, many therapists have MULTIPLE credentials and extensive training in a variety of areas. Ask if they have specific training in areas that are
relevant to you and your needs. For Marriage and Family Therapy, ask if they are a clinical member of the AAMFT (American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists). This is the "gold standard" for Marriage and Family Therapists.
4) What is their treatment philosophy and/or their approach to therapy?
Most people don’t know there are hundreds of different therapy techniques, each of which has its own approach to helping clients create desired change in their lives. Not every approach is applicable or relevant to every client. This is important to understand because
the theoretical model(s) a therapist uses will guide how they will work with you in your therapy, thereby impacting how effective therapy will be! Most therapists pull from multiple school of thoughts and related techniques depending on the needs of their client; however knowing their primary approach will help you select someone whose will be effective for you. Ask your potential therapist: ‘How do you work with clients?’ or ‘What is your style or theoretical orientation?’ Are they able to provide you with a comprehensive answer with a general idea of what you might experience in their office? Does the answer make sense to you? Does it appeal to you? Does their approach feel applicable and relevant to your needs? If so, keep talking! If not, keep dialing or Googling.
Attending therapy sessions on a consistent basis builds momentum and ensures forward progress towards your goals. If you wish to work with someone face-to-face, in the same room, try choosing a therapist who is conveniently located to you and can regularly offer you a time of day that fits in your schedule. This will minimize the risk of unexpected traffic delays or last minute scheduling conflicts. The exception to this guideline is when you find someone who meets all of your other needs clinically and personally. You may decide it’s worth the drive!
Another thing to consider is whether or not the therapist offers on-line "tele-health" on a secure platform. Although on-line therapy is not for everyone, many clients enjoy the convenience of simply connecting via a HIPPA-Compliant platform. This is another question to ask if you decide to work remotely with your therapist: "Is your online platform HIPPA-Compliant?" If not ... that should be deal breaker. Also, you might want to explore if you can come into the office at times, instead of always meeting on-line. Sometimes, we need a personal touch like a warm beverage in an oversized mug. Even though you THINK you'll prefer meeting virtually, many people decide that a every once in a while it's important to step away from the computer screen and do things the "old school" way.
Is the therapist available at a time that works for me/us? Can I get to therapy regularly? Am I willing and able to make the necessary changes in my schedule to accommodate the availability of this therapist? If yes, keep talking! If not, keep dialing or Googling.
5) Session Length and Fees
You are choosing to invest time and money into yourself and/or your relationship. Knowing the financial investment up front will alleviate the risk of showing up for your first appointment only to be disappointed to learn the therapist’s fees are more than you planned for. ~ How long is each session and what is the fee?
~ Does he/she offer discounts for multiple sessions?
~ Can he/she explain why their fees are set as they are?
For example, therapists who specialize in a specific area (i.e. couples counseling, trauma, child play therapy) invest a great deal of additional time and money into their expertise to provide the highest level of care for their clients. By remaining current on the latest research and treatment techniques, specialists are able to continuously enhance their skills and modify their approach to provide more effective, and often shorter, therapy. This will often impact how fees are set.
~ Do they participate with YOUR insurance company? If not, will they provide you with a statement to allow you to submit for out-of-network reimbursement?
~ Do the therapist’s fees feel appropriate to you based on what you know? Does this therapist feel ‘worth the investment’?
If yes, keep talking! If not, keep dialing or Googling.
6) Meeting In-Person
You are almost there! You are now ready to take the next step in your journey to a happier self and/or relationship by scheduling your first appointment! Meeting with your potential therapist is the only way to really know if you will be able to connect with them. Once in session, continue to listen to your gut! Trust yourself and your response.
~ Do you relate to the personality of the therapist you chose?
~ Do you feel comfortable sitting in their office (or looking at them in a tiny little screen)?
~ Do you feel heard?
~ Do you feel safe and comfortable opening up?
~ Are your sessions thought provoking and helpful?
~ Are you seeing progress in a reasonable amount of time?
If yes, CONGRATULATIONS! Your courage and patience have paid off - you have found the BEST therapist for you!! We wish you great success in your therapy goals! If at any point in time the answers to these questions becomes ‘no’, it is important to take a step back to
consider why this may be the case. Is this person just not meeting your needs? Or is something happening within you that is inhibiting your openness to therapy? Either way, therapy is for YOU and every good therapist will want you to make the best choices for you and will welcome a conversation about your experience. For additional information or resources, please feel free to give us call at 303.357.9743 or schedule a consultation or appointment! Click here to Schedule Now.