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You’ve decided that therapy will be a helpful addition to your life.
Finding a great therapist is a great way to ensure that therapy benefits your well-being as much as possible.
But where do you start?
There are so many factors that go into choosing a skilled therapist that it can seem overwhelming. What exactly should you consider when trying to find a great therapist?
That’s what we’re here for. We’re going to go over some of the most commonly asked questions and concerns that people express when searching for their therapists. That way, you can have all of the tools you need to decide on which therapist to see when you’re ready.
Importance of Finding a Great Therapist
Choosing a therapist is just as important as choosing a doctor. Your therapist is a licensed mental health provider who has been trained to help you develop skills to work through your emotions and to help you reduce the symptoms of your mental illnesses.
Taking the time to make sure that you find a great therapist for you will give you a better individual therapy experience in the long run. The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that you find a therapist with good credentials that you can relate to on a personal level to nurture a feeling of trust and to help you feel more comfortable openly communicating with them.
Why Should You Have a Good Relationship with Your Therapist?
Having a good relationship with your therapist is the key to helping you work through your issues effectively. Finding a therapist that you can relate to who has exceptional interpersonal skills will help you to feel more comfortable during your sessions.
Having a good relationship with your therapist creates an environment where you can talk freely about what’s on your mind without facing judgment or rejection. Feeling comfortable in your therapy environment will aid you in opening up and being receptive to the therapist’s thoughts and ideas.
Why Do You Want to Do Therapy?
An important part of choosing a therapist is deciding why you are seeking therapy in the first place. In addition to researching therapists, you should search inside yourself to find the reason you are wanting therapy.
According to the APA, common reasons you should seek therapy include:
- A feeling of sadness and helplessness overwhelms you regularly
- Talking about your issues to friends and family doesn’t make you feel better
- You are struggling to carry out day-to-day activities
- You feel like you’re constantly on edge
- You have harmed yourself or others or are considering doing so
- You have developed an addiction as a coping mechanism
Therapists can provide you with healthy coping mechanisms and exercises to help your mental wellbeing when your emotions overwhelm you.
It’s also important to know what you want to achieve from going to therapy before booking your first session. Different therapists specialize in different techniques. For example, some therapists excel in giving you tools to handle your emotions, while others are better at helping you make sense of your emotions and develop insight.
Knowing why you are seeking therapy and what you want to gain from the experience can help you be better equipped for success in finding a great therapist.
What to Consider When Looking for a Therapist
When looking for a licensed therapist, there are several factors you should take into consideration, such as:
- What credentials the therapist has
- How much therapy will cost you
- How much experience, if any, the therapist has with your reason for seeking therapy
- What kind of therapy you’re looking for and how to know what kind is right for you
- What you should ask your therapist
- If you feel comfortable with the way your therapist describes their abilities
We’ll touch more on these later so that you know exactly what factors to consider.
What Credentials Do They Have?
Therapists are more than just a person to talk to; they're licensed mental health professionals. Just like any other licensed professional, different therapists hold different credentials.
The credentials your therapist has will vary based on what kind of therapist you’re seeking. We’ll touch more on the types of therapy in a bit.
Credentials vary state to state, but all therapists are required to meet the following qualifications:
- Complete a licensing program and passing the exam
- Have a clear background check
- Practice a set number of hours under the supervision of another professional
- Update and maintain education in the mental health field as new research emerges
In general, having a therapist with credentials means that he or she has completed years' worth of training and certification that allows them to practice helping people with their mental health. Most therapists will list their credentials beside their names. For example:
- LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
- LMHC: Licensed Mental Health Counselor
- NCC: National Certified Counselor
- LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Worker
- LPC: Licensed Professional Counselor
- LCP: Licensed Clinical Psychologist
- LCDC: Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor
- PsyD: Doctor of Psychology
How Much Does Therapy Cost?
One of the most important steps to seeking out therapy is finding out how much therapy is going to cost. According to the APA, you have the right to question a therapist’s office and/or your insurance company about the cost of therapy.
Therapy shouldn’t cause you any additional stress, and to avoid putting yourself into a financially difficult situation, you can acquire the following information from a therapist’s office or your insurance company:
- If your insurance covers therapy or if the office accepts your insurance
- How much a session costs
- If you will be responsible for a copay or deductible out of pocket before your session
- If the therapist office offers a sliding scale or payment plans to people without insurance
When choosing your therapist, try not to stress too much about the financial side of things. Many offices take insurance or offer payment plans, and the benefit of finding a great therapist to help you work through your issues can outweigh the financial stress.
Does the Therapist Have Experience Helping Others With the Particular Issues for which You Are Seeking Therapy?
Different therapists have different areas they specialize in. Some therapists specialize in substance abuse management while others specialize in mental health or social work. There is a wide range of therapists available on the market, so researching a prospective therapist’s specialty can help you get the most out of your therapy experience.
What Kind of Therapy Are You Looking For? And How Do You Know What Kind of Therapy is Right for You?
There are various therapy techniques out there. Each therapist specializes in one or more of these types of techniques. To get the most out of your therapy sessions as possible, you should choose a therapist that specializes in the technique(s) that will accommodate your needs.
If you are not interested in that type of therapy, here are some others to consider:
- Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: psychodynamic therapy helps you to explore the connection between your subconscious and your actions. This option can be good for people dealing with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and a variety of other conditions.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): cognitive behavioral therapy helps you change negative thought patterns and address existing symptoms to make a change. CBT is good for mood disorders, OCD, substance abuse disorders, and several other conditions. There are subcategories of CBT, like:
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT teaches you to develop skills to cope with and positively regulate your emotions through acceptance.
- Rational Emotive Therapy: This method will help you replace distressing irrational thoughts with rational ones.
- Behavioral Therapy: behavioral therapy helps give you the tools you need to focus on changing reactions that cause you emotional distress. Behavioral therapy works well for anxiety, phobias, defiant disorders, and several others. There are some subcategories of behavioral therapy, like:
- Aversion Therapy: aversion therapy helps you rewire your thought process by associating bad behaviors with bad things.
- Flooding: flooding exposes you to your fears directly to help you overcome them, rather than slowly exposing you to develop a tolerance.
- Systematic Desensitization: systematic desensitization gradually exposes you to things that cause you to feel afraid or anxious to help you build a tolerance and acceptance of them.
- Humanistic therapy: humanistic therapy enables you to be your true self and live your best life through acceptance and positive reinforcement. This type of therapy works well for those dealing with self-esteem issues, trauma, depression, and several other issues. There are a few subcategories of humanistic therapy, including:
- Person-centered therapy: person-centered therapists offer acceptance and positive reinforcement to help guide you through your issues.
- Existential therapy: existential therapy’s goal is to help you find greater meaning in your life.
- Gestalt therapy: gestalt therapy uses methods like role-playing to help you resolve conflicts that negatively affect your emotional health.
The best way to find the best therapy method for yourself is to research the different types and ask yourself the question, “Will this method help me overcome my issue?”
Then, after researching what types of therapy there are, you will have a better ability to align yourself with which type of therapy will be most beneficial for you.
What Questions Should I Ask My Therapist?
Finding a great therapist is similar to hiring an employee. A great way to get to know a prospective therapist is to conduct an “interview” with them. During this interview, you can ask any question you like. Therapists realize that you don’t know everything, so asking them questions is fine to do.
The APA recommends asking your therapist some of the following questions:
- How many years have you been practicing?
- How much experience do you have helping people with my issues or concerns?
- What is your specialty?
- How much does your office charge for a session?
- What type of therapy and treatments do you use?
- Will your office accept my insurance?
- Do you offer payments on a sliding scale if your office doesn’t accept my insurance?
- What does a typical session with you look like?
These questions are a good place to start but know that you can ask a therapist any appropriate question about being their potential client. As they say, there’s no such thing as a dumb question.
Do You Feel Comfortable with the Way the Therapist Describes Themselves and Their Work and How They Might Be Able to Help?
The way a person speaks about themselves and their work says a lot about who they are. This concept applies to therapists as well.
If a therapist seems overly arrogant in their work, then chances are that working with them will create an uncomfortable environment for you. There is no “cure-all” method when it comes to therapy, and any therapist who claims that they can “fix” you in a short amount of time is not good. On the other hand, a therapist also shouldn’t come off as uncertain or not confident in their work.
A good therapist should be respectfully confident but also accept their downfalls and not take on a case if they are not equipped to handle it properly. If the way a potential therapist speaks about themself or their work makes you uncomfortable, you should find a different therapist.
Where to Find a Therapist
Now that we’ve gone over the most important things to consider when finding a great therapist, we’ll go over where you search for potential therapists.
Does Your Insurance Have a Therapy Directory?
Most insurance companies offer their clients a list of all in-network doctors upon sign-up. This list should also include a therapy directory.
In a therapy directory, your insurance will provide you with the names, office locations, and contact information for all in-network therapists in the area. From there, you can research the therapists that are closest to you to find the one that will benefit you the most.
Can You Check with Mental Health Organizations?
Many mental health organizations have a therapist locator on their website that will help you find a qualified therapist in your area. A good resource that offers a locator map for mental health services is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Here you can find therapists based on location.
Can you Get Recommendations from Friends?
One of the best ways to find a great therapist is to get recommendations from people you know and trust. If you know someone who is going to therapy for issues similar to your own, don’t hesitate to ask them who they are seeing.
How to Know if Therapy Is Working
We've covered the basics of choosing the right therapist for you, but how can you tell if the therapist you choose is working? Having a successful therapy session isn’t dependent on concrete results. Your mental health may improve, but if you don’t feel heard or cared about, your therapy session wasn’t successful. Let's go over some things that will help you know if therapy is working.
Do You Feel Seen, Heard, and Respected During Your Session?
Whether it’s in your personal relationships or a relationship with a professional, being heard and respected is the key to success.
One of the biggest advantages of therapy is being heard and understood in a meaningful way that's beneficial to your mental health. Having a therapist that understands and respects you is crucial to the outcome of your therapy session.
If your therapist makes you feel unheard and disrespected at any point, then you should find a new therapist. Having negative feelings associated with a bad therapist or a bad experience with a therapist can ruin your perception of therapy as a whole, and nobody wants that to happen.
Does Your Counselor Approach Human Beings in a Compassionate and Optimistic Way?
It’s not just about your relationship with your counselor but also about how your counselor views humanity as a whole. Having your therapist is compassionate, optimistic, and caring to people shows that they care about making a difference in their clients’ lives.
When a counselor is compassionate about their clients, they are compassionate about their job, which sets you up for success in your therapy sessions in a huge way.
Do You Get a Good Feeling from How the Therapists Talk about Themselves?
When a counselor has no faith in their ability to do their job correctly, it can set the stage for a failed therapy session. If the therapist you are seeing talks about themself in a negative light or in a way that makes you uncomfortable, they are focusing too much on themself and their issues rather than helping you work through yours.
Having a therapist who maintains a healthy level of confidence in their abilities while helping you work through your issues and improve your mental health is crucial to having a successful therapy session.
Choose the Best for You
Therapy should always be a positive, beneficial experience, and finding a great therapist is the key to improving yourself through therapy. Selecting a great therapist will help you work through your issues and improve your mental health and overall well-being.
We hope you consider these factors the next time you’re searching for a new therapist.