Someone asked me recently how to find the best therapist for them and I thought "damn, that's a great question." So I decided to make a list of points you should think about when deciding if your therapist is best for you.
First, notice how I'm phrasing that. Best therapist for you. We all want the best. I know I do which is why I spend a ridiculous amount of time on Yelp reading restaurant reviews. However, when it comes to therapy, best actually means best for you. The greatest therapist of all time is a completely subjective title. A therapist could be in practice for 25 years and be using outdated skills and techniques, stuck in their ways, and not considering new cultural context. A brand new therapist could be using highly researched techniques, nuanced in cultural concerns and completely present. Both could still be wrong for you or both could be highly effective. It just depends on you.
So here are some things to think about when you are looking for the best therapist for you.
When I contact them, how do I immediately feel? Do I feel seen, heard and understood? Is there something that is bothering me? This is gut instinct and just trust it. You don't need to justify why something is bothering you. If it bothers you, it bothers you. Now if you are just uncomfortable because you are talking about something that is uncomfortable for you, that's different. That has to do with the newness of discussing this topic with someone and not much to do with the actual therapist.
What am I looking to accomplish with therapy? Am I looking to have a place to just talk about me? Am I looking to build a deep relationship with the therapist? Am I looking for answers, advice and solutions? Understanding what your desires are will help you understand if this therapist's style is best for you. We often don't know what we're looking for so take some time to reflect on it.
What do I expect when it comes to scheduling? This one is difficult because each therapist approaches scheduling differently. Some therapists pack their schedule with back-to-back appointments and ask clients to commit to a slot that becomes their's each week. Others are more fluid and open to scheduling at different times for each appointment depending on your schedule. Asking your therapist before you start with them can prevent problems down the road from accidentally starting therapy with a scheduling style that doesn't work best for you.
How long am I looking to do therapy? Some therapists wouldn't dream of beginning to get down into the "work" until they've seen you for at least 10 sessions and have built a strong foundational relationship first. Other therapists will push you to make changes from the beginning. Understanding how long you are committing to therapy will help you find the best therapist for you. You'll be disappointed if you are looking for changes to occur right away but then find out your therapist subscribes to the long-term relationship approach. The best way to find out about this is to ask. Neither way is right nor wrong and different approaches will work best for different people. So again, take some time to reflect on what you are looking for.
What should you do if you've started therapy and you're thinking they are not the best fit for you? Look around for a new one. The most important part of therapy is working with the best therapist for you. It makes all the difference. Therapists spend a lot of time considering fit of therapist and most have done their own work on themselves so they don't take it personally when they aren't a fit for someone. You can consider asking for a referral. Or if that makes you uncomfortable, hop on Google and start searching and while you are contacting people, consider the above questions.
Corrin Voeller is a couples counselor in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. She does in-person and online counseling and coaching with couples and individuals to improve the relationships in their lives. She specializes in couples counseling, marriage counseling, discernment counseling and sex therapy. She lives with her husband, children and extremely fat dog.
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