Deciding that you want to seek therapy can be hard. Sometimes choosing the right therapist is even harder – like trying to put a puzzle together without knowing what it’s supposed to look like. How can you know you’re going to end up with the person that you can trust with your most personal thoughts and who can actually help you feel better? There’s no easy answer, but there are some considerations that can make it less painful.
This is hands down the best way to find a therapist. Do you have a friend whose therapist helped her with a similar problem? Does your doctor have trusted referrals? How about your church or your children’s school? While it doesn’t answer every question you’ll have, it does help a lot to know that someone else trusts this person.
The most important aspect of whether or not a therapist can help you is whether you feel comfortable with them. You can begin to get a feel for this in the initial phone call or by checking out their website. Do they seem open and caring? Does their style seem to mesh with yours? There are also things that might make you feel more comfortable, such as a specific gender, age range, religious orientation, or ethnicity. Paying attention to what kind of vibe you get from the therapist can help you determine if they will be the right fit for you.
Areas of specialization
This can get a little tricky, and being clear about what you’re looking for is very important. Some people like to practice with a wide range of people and presenting issues, while other therapists prefer to be highly specialized. If you’re in a funk and not really sure what you need, you might prefer to see a generalist. But if you have suffered severe trauma and have been in therapy before with minimal improvement in symptoms, then you probably want to see someone who specializes in trauma. While some people have a long list of specialties, I prefer to choose from people who list only a small handful when I’m looking for specific care.
What sorts of training does the therapist have that can help with the issue you’re experiencing, and how in depth was the training? For example, there are many ways to treat trauma, and I have chosen to become certified in EMDR. Others might prefer Somatic Experiencing or Cognitive Processing Therapy. Whatever the model, you want to make sure they have adequate training and experience. A 3-hour webinar isn’t the same as going through the certification process, so ask questions to help you understand their specific qualifications.
Going to therapy can be hard work, so try to avoid some common barriers if possible. If you can only attend on certain days at certain times, try to find a therapist whose availability matches up with yours. Is their location convenient, or will you eventually dread the drive to their office? Do they accept your insurance, or will you need to pay out of pocket? Therapy is an investment in yourself, so you may need to make some accommodations to make it work, but be honest with yourself about what’s doable.
You won’t always be able to find a therapist who comes highly recommended, gives you a good vibe, has the specialization and training you’re looking for, at the ideal time and location who takes your insurance; but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying to find the closest match possible.