Choosing a great therapist is the secret to making therapy work.
But how do you find the right one for you?
Here’s what we recommend.
Begin by identifying why you are going to therapy. Are you going alone or with a partner? Do you want to work on overall mental and emotional health, reducing depression or anxiety, creating meaningful relationships? Or are you seeking treatment for a specific experience such as a trauma? Knowing why you are going to therapy is a great way to narrow down your options and find the best therapist for you.
Then, think about who your ideal therapist would be. Are they female or male? Older than you or younger than you? Is it important that they have a religious affiliation or important that they don’t?
When you have an idea in mind about why you are going to therapy and the type of therapist you would like to work with, the next step is actually finding someone to talk to. Asking friends and family for recommendations can be helpful, as well as using the internet to research local therapy offices. Read the bios of each therapist carefully, keeping an eye out for their theory, specializations, and qualifications.
But even after you know your why and have done the research, it can be difficult to know whether the therapist you are working with is the best choice for you. For this reason, we’ve created the following list:
Eight Things to Consider When Choosing a Therapist
- You feel safe and comfortable. You feel like you can be your authentic self and that the therapist sees and receives you exactly as you are. Keep in mind that the personal connection you share with your therapist is what will allow you to dig deep and speak truthfully. The relationship you build together is the foundation for your healing and transformation, and although this relationship develops over time, there should be a feeling of trust and safety from the very beginning.
- The session feels focused and directed towards a goal. Although it’s important to feel comfortable, conversations with your therapist should feel different from conversations with a best friend.
- They give you all their attention. Their energy and focus is on you, the conversation is on you, and their advice is focused on what you need. Pay attention if your therapist is talking about themselves more than is appropriate and don’t waste time or energy with a therapist who is not there solely for you. Remember, you are paying for a service and deserve to feel satisfied with the sessions.
- They ask, and are able to receive, honest feedback. Therapists are people, just like anybody else. A good therapist, a professional therapist, can admit mistakes and is willing to learn.
- They are holding you accountable and supporting you to make changes, and you feel like you are making progress. Although progress looks vastly different for each of us, the eventual goal of therapy should be to develop enough emotional strength, independence, and resilience to end therapy completely.
- They are a licensed mental health professional who follows guidelines and a code of ethics. A therapist is not the same as a coach or mentor. In California, to become a licensed therapist, you must have a master’s degree and three-thousand hours of clinical experience.
- They are using an evidence-based approach to therapy. This means that research and experience prove that the theory your therapist is working with has results. At The Relationship Place, we use the Gottman Method Approach to couples therapy. This method is based on over four decades of research and study into relationships and focuses on seven principles of building healthy relationships. Make sure you understand which theory your therapist is working with and decide if their approach aligns with your own philosophy and the issues you want to resolve.
- Finally, you always have the option of calling the therapist you are considering working with and talking to them before your first session. Most therapists offer a free consultation which should give you an idea of who they are and how well you connect with them. A phone call is a great way to ask questions and feel things out. At The Relationship Place in San Diego, we offer free, fifteen-minute consultations for new clients. Call us today to find out more.