I have a confession. I’ve been a therapist for three and a half years. I know what to expect in therapy. I know the right questions to ask to make sure a counselor is a good fit with a client. And yet looking for a counselor left me confused and anxious about choosing.
The reason I was anxious is because I know how important finding the right therapist is. I needed somebody I could trust and connect with easily. I needed somebody I felt safe with, that respected me. I needed a counselor that shared my same values.
That’s a lot to expect when looking for a therapist!
There are several things to consider when starting the search for your counselor. Doing research in advance will help ensure you find someone that you feel comfortable with. And that can make all the difference in how helpful therapy will be for you.
Here are 5 important factors to take into account when looking for a therapist:
1. Find a therapist you are comfortable with
The therapeutic alliance is the single most important part of therapy. It is the relationship between you and your counselor, and many studies show that it may be the BIGGEST predictor of how helpful therapy will be for you. If you trust and feel comfortable with your counselor, feel generally good after leaving, and look forward to your next session, then you have a good relationship with your therapist! But how do you know if you will feel comfortable with someone before your first session?
I offer my clients free initial consults. This gives you a chance to meet me, ask questions, tell me a little about yourself, and become familiar with my practice. This way you can know how you feel in my presence and (hopefully) feel a little less anxious about our first session. Many other therapists also offer free initial consults for this reason.
2. Find a therapist experienced in treating the problems you struggle with
There is a wide range of mental and behavioral health concerns, and therapists can’t be experts in them all! Find a counselor that is knowledgeable in the area you are struggling. Often counselors will list their areas of expertise on their website or PsychologyToday account, which should make the search a little easier for you.
3. Find a therapist that uses the approach you want
Despite what the media shows, most therapists do not have clients lie on a couch and talk about their childhood. Since those early days of the counseling profession, advances in therapeutic approaches have been made. Many people don’t realize how many treatment choices they have in therapy!
Some counselors will be more directive, offering advice or suggestions and maybe even homework. Others will be more passive and simply let you talk about whatever you like.
If you want to make changes in your life, find a therapist trained in behavioral or cognitive behavioral therapies. But if you’re more interested in simply exploring yourself as a person or examining your past, without wanting to necessarily change anything, then counselors with an acceptance and mindfulness approach may be better.
So before looking for a therapist it may be best to picture how you would like your sessions to look. Then ask the counselor in advance if they practice the way you hope to be treated.
4. Find a therapist that meets your financial needs
This one is less about finding the right counselor you fit with, but equally important to ensure that finances don’t harm your therapeutic relationship. If you plan to use your insurance to pay for sessions, make sure to check with a therapist if they are in network with your insurance company. Another question to ask is if they offer payment plans in case you need them. And if you are planning to self-pay, ask if the therapist offers any discount for self-pay clients. Knowing the answers to these questions in advance will help you not feel blindsided in case something comes up.
5. Find a therapist that shares your values
This may in fact be one of the most important considerations in finding a therapist! If the therapist you’re seeing does not share your values you run the risk of not “clicking” with them, which will make progression in therapy more difficult. And you obviously want to start feeling better as soon as possible! There will be some differences in your beliefs and values – the likelihood of finding a PERFECT match on all issues is incredibly low. But you and your counselor should align closely on those values that are very important to you.
I hope these questions help you on your wonderful journey to finding a therapist. Just know that it is OK to be selective! Finding the right counselor for you is very important. If you are interested in meeting me to determine if I am the therapist for you, call me at (531) 289-8246 for a free initial consult. I would love to meet you!