How to Choose the Right Psychotherapist

"My first attempt at finding a therapist was so unsettling and embarrassing that ten years passed before I tried again."  

Choosing the Right Counselor

So I finally made the decision to give therapy another try. I found a good therapist and yeah, it made all the difference. Whew!

Maybe you're here concerned about a friend who's depressed. Maybe you're thinking of going to therapy. Or maybe you have already been, but you weren't with the right therapist. In any case, give some thought as to how you will choose your therapist.

Therapy is like education. It's an investment in yourself. Make your investment count and find a therapist that's right for you. You'll be spending a considerable amount of time, energy and money. It makes sense for you to do your homework first.

I wish I knew then what I know now. Trust your instincts! The right therapist can make the difference.

Finding the right counselor can be a daunting task.

Most people looking for a professional, be it an accountant, lawyer or physician, depend upon the recommendation of someone they trust, such as a friend, family member, or colleague.

But what do you do if you're looking for a counselor and you don't know anyone who's been to therapy?

Or maybe, you don't want to share this part of your life with anyone right now, so asking your family or friends is simply out of the question.

Many professionals have signs and symbols attesting to their reputation and success:

  • A lawyer has a track record of cases won.
  • A chiropractor has a busy office.
  • A contractor has a list of satisfied customers with well-built homes.

But the field of therapy doesn't have those guideposts. The work happens behind closed doors. There are no ads proclaiming "this is a good therapist" nor testimonials posted for the world to see. There is no source of information that could help you decide if a particular therapist is the one for you.

When you really get how therapy can make your life better and you've made the decision to go, you'll want to give yourself the best chance possible. Take it from me, the right therapist means good therapy. Without a good connection, you'll find a hard time making the changes you desire.

I wish I knew then what I know now. Finding the right counselor can make all the difference!

What to ask: Making that first call to a counselor*

Here are some questions you could ask:

  • Are you accepting new clients?
  • What are your fees?
  • What are your hours?
  • What happens in a typical session?
  • Do you use any special techniques?

So how do you find the right counselor?

Finding a therapist needn't be complicated. Once you are aware of what to look for and what to avoid, the whole process becomes much easier.

Caution: Not all therapists are alike!

Over the years I've spoken to many friends and acquaintances about what happens in their therapy. I've been very puzzled at what some have described. You see, not all therapists base the treatment on a good therapeutic relationship. What this means to you is that without a solid relationship, it will be much harder to achieve the deeper changes you are working for.

It's important because you will be developing a unique relationship with your therapist which will be the anchor for all your work.

Academic degrees on the wall won't guarantee that a particular individual can relate in a way that's best for you.

In fact, it's been my experience that the success of your therapy will depend on establishing a good relationship with your therapist.

A good working relationship is essential for creating lasting change! (See 'Why Therapy Matters' for an in-depth discussion of why this is so).

What does a good connection feel like if you've never had one before?

I also realize that you may not know what this feels like especially if you have had few experiences with good psychotherapists. Indeed, how can you recognize a good connection if you've never had one in your life?

What do you look for? These essential qualities of a good therapist include attunement, empathy, and being able to really take in what you're saying.

Many of the pages in MyShrink contain useful information about therapists who demonstrate these qualities.

I encourage you to find these qualities in your next therapist.

Here's a good place to start:

Candid Conversations with a Therapist

Corrective Emotional Experiences

* From my association: BC Psychological Association.

Finding a therapist needn't be complicated. Once you are aware of what to look for and what to avoid, the whole process becomes that much easier.