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How to Choose a Therapist


Aug. 6, 2021 Psychology Today

Are you looking for a new therapist? Or thinking of trying therapy for the first time?

Therapy is most effective when there is a good fit between therapist and client. The alphabet soup behind everyone’s names, the therapy jargon you might not understand, the multitude of certifications, trainings, and treatment models simply adds to your confusion. Even we therapists can experience this when trying to find therapists for ourselves or are providing referrals for family and friends. Let’s break this down into more manageable pieces.

Before you start your search:

  1. Get clear about what you want to accomplish in therapy or are needing support around.
  2. Decide if you want in-person or telehealth sessions.
  3. Know your accessibility needs and what will make it easier for you to commit to the process.
  4. Determine what values or life experiences are important for your therapist to have in common with you.

Once you have the above figured out, narrow your search based on these. Knowing what you want to accomplish or need support around allows you to search therapists’ sites and database profiles using keywords like “couples therapy” or “anxiety management.” Most therapists state clearly whether they offer in-person or virtual sessions. Many practices have both available. If you know you’re wanting one or the other be sure to add it to your search.

When considering accessibility, think about more than ADA compliance, languages spoken, and a schedule that fits with yours. You want to make sure your therapist takes your insurance, offer a sliding scale for payment, or that their session fees fit your budget. Additionally, if you’re going to do in-person sessions, is their office conveniently located? Because let’s be real, if the office is a challenge to get to, or going to therapy is going to require a three-hour time commitment, you’ll be more likely to cancel sessions and maybe quit sooner than you’d intended.

There are some who suggest a therapist’s values and life experiences should not impact the therapeutic relationship as therapists are trained to remain neutral, and to keep their personal beliefs, values, and life experiences out of the therapy. I suppose maybe if therapists weren’t also human beings that would always be true, but alas therapists are all humans first, and therapists second. Shared life experiences, dimensions of culture, and/or value systems can create a sense of safety and trust that only a “me too” connection creates.

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