How NOT to Choose a Therapist
By: Erin Hinek, LPC
Many people choose a therapist based on a recommendation from a friend or by searching PsychologyToday and picking someone based on therapist's profile photo. While recommendations are great, not everyone can get a personal referral. And a photo can transmit some of the personality of a therapist, but this strategy misses key aspects of finding the best therapist for YOU. With that in mind, here are four things that can help you narrow the field and help you find the qualified professional you’ll click with.
1. Make sure the therapists you reach out to specialize in what you want help with. Therapists can treat a range of issues; however, most specialize in one or two areas. For example, some therapists focus on helping clients deal with grief, or eating disorders, or couples’ dynamics. I focus on adults with childhood trauma and twenty-somethings going through life transitions. Try using the PsychologyToday “Therapist Finder” and searching by issue, or use Google, and narrow your choices a bit by searching according to issue and physical location.
2. Shop around. Call and speak with several different therapists. The first telephone conversation and/or initial session can be an interview for fit. Ask about things that are important to you. A therapist should be comfortable with being interviewed. While they may not answer extremely personal questions, you can ask about the process: how often and for what duration do you usually work with clients? And about training: what is your experience treating X issue; how many years have you been in practice? You are allowed to be curious about your therapist and ask them questions in order to make sure that your specific needs get met.
3. Check for licensure. Licensed therapists need at least a Master’s Degree in their field plus a few years of experience and training to be licensed by the state they work in. The letters after their names can help you understand their license type. Feel free to ask them what those acronyms mean. (Common ones include: LPC: Licensed Professional Counselor, LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Worker.)
4. Tune in to YOU. Make sure you feel comfortable and supported in session. Research shows that the relationship you have with your therapist is very important for good therapy outcomes. You should feel comfortable sharing with them and feel respected and heard. Ask yourself: How do you feel in their office? While speaking with them? Is the relationship helping you or getting in the way? It’s important to recognize that therapy can often be uncomfortable because it involves growth, but the therapeutic relationship should be helping the process, not making it harder.
I hope I’ve shown you how to look for an expert therapist who will be a good fit for you. So, no more feeling overwhelmed while scanning therapist headshots! Therapy is an important investment, and choosing a therapist is a significant first step. Good luck!
Want to interview me for fit? Schedule a free 15-minute initial phone call, and I’ll be sure to answer any questions you have.