Finding a good therapist can be a daunting task. Just like any occupation, not all therapists are very good at their jobs. That is sad, but it is also reality. Starting therapy is one of the most valuable, and vulnerable journeys you will ever take with another person, so it’s important that it’s a good one.
Use this guide to help you on your journey to finding the help you need!
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
The titles therapists have can be confusing. When you are already stressed or hurting, it can be hard to wade through these titles, and figure out exactly what you need. Click here for an article I wrote a couple of years ago that breaks it all down. Do you need a therapist? A counselor? A psychiatrist? You can find the answers here!
WHERE DO I START?
The best way to find a therapist is through the referral of someone you know and trust. This isn’t always a guarantee, but chance are if they had a positive experience in therapy, you will too.
If that’s not possible, a simple way to find a therapist in your area is to go to www.psychologytoday.com and click on the tab “Find a Therapist” at the top of the page. There you can enter your zip code, and some key words to find a list of therapists in your area. Visiting their pages, and reading in their own words about how they work with clients will give you some insight into whether or not they would be a good fit for you.
Ask your church/faith community – If finding a therapist who shares your faith is important to you, then asking your church for recommendations can be very helpful. Most churches maintain a list of therapists that they refer to.
QUESTIONS TO ASK:
So, you’ve found a therapist, and are calling to make the first appointment. It is perfectly okay to interview them a little on the phone before you schedule with them. You will be opening up to them in a very vulnerable way. Plus therapy is expensive! You want to make sure you are connecting with the right person.
- What types of clients do you work with the most?
- What is your method of working with clients?
- What framework do you use when working with (fill in your specific issue)?
- What is your schedule like? (Will it be easy for you to get in for appointments in the timeframe you need?)
A good therapist will not be annoyed by these questions, and most importantly will be able to answer them. Be wary of a therapist who doesn’t have a ready answer for the framework they use to treat certain issues, or what their philosophy of working with clients is. If they can’t answer it, they probably don’t have one, which can lead you down months of unproductive therapy.
A GOOD THERAPIST WILL:
- A good therapist will NOT just listen to you download your week each session. Most people think the fundamental task of a therapist is to be a good listener, and while that is important, it is not the most important thing I do for my clients. Good listeners are free. They are called your friends. A good therapist listens to what you say through a theory or framework that leads them to solutions for your problems. A good therapist should be able to talk about your problem within a psychological framework that makes sense to you, and then be an active participant in helping you heal and grow. A good therapist will point out the blindspots that are holding you back in your life. They will teach you things like how to have better boundaries, self-esteem, relationships, etc. A good therapist looks for the root of the issue, and has a plan on how to treat it to help you achieve real healing.
- A good therapist will click with you. “Clicking” can look like a million different things, but the bottom line is that you should feel comfortable with your therapist. You should feel that they care about your well being, that they don’t judge or shame you for struggling, and that they have good boundaries and don’t turn the session into therapy for them. A good therapist for you will be someone you feel comfortable being honest with. One of the biggest predictors of a positive therapeutic outcome is the relationships between the therapist and client. This relationship has the potential to fill in gaps you have from other important relationships in your life in a really healing way. Ask yourself, “Can I see myself telling this person my deepest, darkest secret?”
- A good therapist explains things in ways you can understand. If in the very first session, your therapist uses a bunch of terms that you can’t understand, and then struggles to explain them in a way you can connect with, that might not be the best therapist for you. A good therapist needs to not just be a good listener, but a good communicator as well.
- A good therapist will tell you if they are not the right therapist for you. Sometimes finding the best help for your situation can feel a little like leapfrog. You might call a therapist, or even have some sessions with one, and find that they are not the best person to help you. A good therapist will realize when they are out of their depth or expertise, and will want to help you find someone who can truly help you. A good therapist is more interested in helping you than they are keeping you as a client. And as I therapist, I would never refer someone to another therapist that I didn’t trust and think highly of – sometimes your best referral may come from another therapist you have spoken with.
Finding a good therapist can see like a daunting task at times, but it is worth it. Therapy is a unique healing relationship that has the power to change not only your life, but the course of your family’s future. How healthy you are as an individual directly impacts how healthy your marriage, parenting, and friendships will be. It will impact how you perform at work, and it can even impact your physical health.
If you are in the Phoenix area, and would like to explore doing therapy with me, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org