Beginners Guide to Finding the Right Therapist
Not every therapist is going to be right for every person. Not every therapist has the same training or specialty. Who your friends see might not be the right choice for you if you have different issues that you need to discuss. If you are just starting to look for a therapist and you have never seen one before, you might not know what constitutes the right therapist for you. If you are a beginner in the world of therapy, check out this Beginner’s Guide to Finding the Right Therapist.
Should I get therapy?
If you are already considering getting help, therapy is likely a great option for you. Those who feel overwhelmed, anxious, helpless, depressed, and listless can all benefit from meeting with a therapist. Even if you find some relief in your own efforts or the efforts of your friends and family members, meeting with someone who has the resources and tools to help people who feel helpless can be extremely beneficial.
Those who find that their everyday lives are being interrupted by intrusive thoughts or feelings can especially benefit from therapy. The inability to concentrate on what you need to concentrate on can be another major sign that a therapist could be a good solution for you. In addition, taking actions that harm yourself or that harm the people around you is a sign that it’s time to get some help.
How can I find a therapist for me?
Finding the right therapist can make or break your treatment. How do you know if you are making the right choice? Here are a few tips for finding the right therapist for you:
1. Ask your friends or family members.
If you have friends or family that you know are in therapy, a good place to start is to ask them how they like their therapist. Try to get as honest of a referral as you possibly can. Many people will start seeing a therapist and continue on with that therapist, even if they do not really like that therapist, simply to avoid hurting that therapist’s feelings. If your friends or family members do not like their therapist or do not think that their therapist would be a good match for you, they might still be willing to ask their own therapist if they have a colleague that might be a good fit for you.
2. Look online.
Today, most therapists have a website or, at the very least, a listing on a local provider’s directory. Not only will you be able to learn a little bit about that therapist before contacting them, you might also be able to see posted reviews from their own clients. Most therapists will include information on their website or on a directory listing about their specialties, meeting times, availability, etc. All of this information can help you decide whether or not you want to schedule an appointment with a potential therapist.
3. Ask about their approach to treatment.
Some therapists are simply going to use treatments or follow philosophies that are not going to work for you. It can be difficult to know what theory your therapists adheres to until you meet with that person and have a few sessions, but this is something that you do want to be aware of and something that can dictate whether you stay with a therapist or look for someone else. Also, look for someone who is willing to explain their theoretical orientation to you. There are many different theories and some therapists might subscribe to more than one, adjusting their approach to the specific needs of their patients. Don’t be afraid to ask!
4. Ask about schooling.
When asking about schooling, you are not necessarily trying to find a therapist who attended Harvard and eliminating any therapist who attended a state school. What you are looking for, however, is confirmation that they actually do have a degree and not a coaching certification from an online certification program. Some people will take a coaching course and declare themselves a lifestyle therapist, even though they have no real formal training in the field. This is absolutely what you do not want when it comes to a therapist.
5. Ask about their specialty.
Some therapists specialize in helping patients with PTSD while others specialize in social anxiety or family issues. Many therapists specialize in more than one thing. What you are really looking for here is to make sure that they do not claim to specialize in everything. No one person can specialize in every single aspect of therapy. Those who really care about helping people will pick a specific niche or perhaps two or three and get really good at helping people in that area. You’ll also want to make sure the therapist you choose to work with has familiarity with your area of concern.
6. Ask if they have ever been in therapy.
Most therapists have also gone to therapy. Why? Because someone who is good at helping people usually also recognizes that they need help in their own life. They will also better understand what it is like to be a person sitting on the therapist’s couch. They will have actually experienced what it is like to be a client, so they will be better able to relate to you and your needs.
7. Pay attention to your gut.
You should feel comfortable talking to your therapist. It is natural to want to hold back, but there is a difference between holding back because you think you are going to be judged and holding back because you know you are going to be judged. You do not want to choose a therapist who constantly makes you feel like you are doing something wrong. Basically, you do not want a therapist who compounds your issues, instead of helping you work through them.
8. Make sure your therapist is licensed.
Each state has different state regulations that regulate who can call themselves a therapist or counselor. You want a therapist who is licensed to practice in your state of residency. Many people don’t know this, but you can double-check your therapist’s licensing credentials through your state’s website by typing in your therapist’s name and state of practice. If you search licensing credentials in (fill in the blank) state, you should get a website specific to your state and the regulatory board for therapists in your state. You also want your therapist to have a Master’s level education. Beware that some people will call themselves a therapist or counselor while only holding a Bachelor level education. This is not the type of therapist you want.
9. You are suppose to have more talk-time than your therapist.
If you finally locate a therapist and then find that your therapist talks more than you in literally every session you have, change therapists. You should never encounter a situation where your therapist chatters non-stop and spends the majority of session talking about themselves. If you find that this is a pattern, change counselors and find someone more interested in learning about you than talking about their own personal problems.
Good luck in your quest to find a therapist! It’s a big world out there, but therapist communities are rich and vibrant, showcasing every type of therapist and area of specialization. Take your time and do the research to find the therapist right for you.