If you have already made the decision to start pscyhotherapy, congratulations! That in itself is certainly difficult enough. Now, you are probably faced with another difficult task; choosing the best fit. Even though psychotherapist are professionals, they are also human beings, and they all bring their personalities, experiences, cultural backgrounds, and styles to the therapeutic relationship. All of these elements make finding the right psychotherapist an important step.
I have compiled a list of tips for you to consider while choosing the right therapist for you:
1. Gender: Do you have a gender preference? Do you feel you can connect better with a female or a male therapist? Some people have no preference and feel comfortable with the opposite gender; others don’t. This is very common. So, if it is a big deal for you, don’t ignore it.
2. Age: Are you comfortable trusting, getting suggestions from, or connecting with a psychotherapist who is younger than you? Or would you prefer an older person? While psychotherapists do not list their age on their websites, they sometimes include a photo. Another way of knowing their age group is by asking how many years of experience they have. Don’t be shy, most pscyhotherapists don't mind you asking this question. After all, they know it is best for you to feel comfortable.
3. Modality: Are you looking for an individual psychotherapist? Or do you want to attend as a couple or family? Some clients are interested in group psychotherapy to connect with other people experiencing similar challenges.
4. Theoretical orientation: Theoretical orientation is a framework. Some psychotherapists do not follow any theoretical orientations while others are very strict. If someone says they are ‘eclectic’, they will most often have one theory that they work from and will draw from others depending on what may be the best fit for you. For instance, if you want to target behavior, then a solution-focused approach might better than a psycho-dynamic one.
5. Online Presence: Most psychotherapists keep an online presence these days. Do your online research for psychotherapists who are available in your area. Checking out their websites might give you lot of information. For instance, if you are dealing with symptoms of psychological trauma, find out if they have trauma expertise. Do they post blogs about it? Do they take insurance? If not, can you afford their fees?
6. Free consultation: Some psychotherapists offer a free phone consultation. This is a good opportunity for you to ask questions about expertise, population, and experience.
7. Recommendations: Is there anyone you know that might have a recommendation for you? Often times this is the best way to start your research.
8. Try it once: Yes! Give it a try. The first appointment usually consists of a mental health assessment. They will ask you a lot of questions, and this is a good chance to get an idea of how comfortable you are, to ask your own questions, and to know what it feels like.
9. Hours & Location: Do you work full-time? If so, you may need a psychotherapist who offers evening and/or Saturday appointments. Find out the hours and if the location will work for your needs.
10. Be Patient: It can be daunting to try out more than one psychotherapist, but be patient, finding the right person will make all the difference.
Lastly, remember that you are not ‘stuck’ with a psychotherapist. If you meet them and agree to see them weekly, and you later change your mind, or it feels like it isn’t a good fit anymore, it's okay. Let them know you will not be coming back and try to find a better fit. The therapy process is ultimately for you and if you are not feeling comfortable, it won’t work.
Take care of yourself,
Diana Waddell, LCSW