how to choose a therapist


I got some messages from you with a question about how to choose a therapist, what is important to make a decision that this is the right person. It is not an easy topic to answer and definitely, it is not a simple choice to make. I think I personally had more luck than knowledge on how to do that when I was looking for support. That’s why I decided to ask about it a professional – Dr. Hayden Finch, a clinical psychologist with broad experience in work with people.

I am honored to announce this is the first interview with Hayden. This amazing woman agreed to answer more of your questions in the next weeks. Unfortunately, there is the entire ocean between us, so we communicate via emails and you will not listen to the nice voice of Hayden on the record. If you prefer listening than reading, I will tell you every word Hayden shared with us there!

So, how to choose a therapist who will be the right choice for you?

Dr. Hayden Finch says that choosing a therapist is one of the most important components of getting started with therapy.  In fact, the relationship you have with your therapist makes a bigger difference in how effective therapy is than the treatments the therapist uses!  So it’s important to spend some time choosing the person who’s going to be the best fit for you.

Start by asking your friends and family what they like about their therapist.  If you’re comfortable seeing the same therapist they see, then you might consider trying that person.  Another option is to ask your friends and family to ask their therapist for recommendations of other therapists.  If your friends and family trust their therapist, chances are that their therapist also knows other great therapists in the area.  

If none of your friends are in therapy, then consider asking your physician for a referral.  

Another option is to check with databases of therapists who have the training you’re looking for.  If you’re looking specifically for a cognitive-behavioral therapist, for example, you can search here: http://www.findcbt.org/FAT/. Other types of therapy have similar databases where you can search for people with specific training.

Most people find therapists through online searches.  Psychology Today is one of the most popular platforms.  It’s kind of like online dating… therapists have profiles on these websites, and you search through the profiles, look at their pictures and bio, and email or call the ones you like.  Look for a therapist who looks like someone you’d feel comfortable with, someone who seems approachable and knowledgeable. Read their biography. If the way they talk about mental health resonates with you, you’ll probably like them.  

What should you be careful about? And how to be sure this is the right therapist?

Beware of therapists who claim to be experts in basically everything…expertise in everything usually means they actually have expertise in nothing.  Look for someone who claims to specifically be an expert in exactly what you’re needing. If I’m looking for therapy because I was molested in childhood, I want a therapist who specializes in childhood sexual abuse, not someone who also treats spider phobias and ADHD.  

Set up an initial appointment with someone whose profile you liked best.  Don’t hesitate to schedule initial appointments with two or three different people.  It’s critical you find someone that you feel most comfortable with and whose approach seems like it’s going to fit your needs.  So when you set up the appointment, tell them you’re really committed to finding the best fit, so you’re also meeting with a couple of other therapists.  Once you’ve completed the initial appointments with your top choices, choose the one that felt most comfortable to you.

Most often, people look for a therapist who is a lot like them demographically — someone who’s in the same age bracket and often the same racial background.  This is because we feel like a therapist who looks like us can relate to us.  That’s not necessarily essential, but it’s very common.  

The most important consideration in deciding

The most important consideration in deciding if this is the right person for you is how you feel when you’re around them.  Do you feel like you can learn to trust them? Do you feel like eventually you can open up and work on some hard stuff? Do you feel safe to tell them things you’ve never told anyone else?  Don’t expect to feel comfortable at the initial session. You just met this person, for Pete’s sake! But look for someone whose personality indicates you can probably build up trust and comfort over time.

At the initial session, you’ll likely discuss the problems that bring you to therapy and how therapy can be helpful.  Make sure you and your therapist agree on what you’ll be working on. Also, discuss how you’ll work on those goals.  Make sure you understand what treatments and methods will be used to help you resolve the problems that brought you to therapy, and make a decision about whether those are the best treatments and methods for you.  

More information

If you look for more information about therapy, recovery, personal development look at the blog haydenfinch.com and find Hayden on Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter!  Hayden, thank you very much for sharing your knowledge with us <3!

Check other interviews with Dr. Hayden Finch: 
First therapy session, goals and the contract
How could I know that I have a good therapist?

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