Step 3: Choosing a therapist
The most important factor while choosing a therapist is your chemistry with them. Your gut feeling will be a powerful source of information. However, for effective therapy, you also need to look out for a therapist who is well trained and a good fit for you. Here are the key factors to consider:
Compatibility and connection (Most important)
- Do you feel understood and respected, and not judged or pressured in any way?
- Especially with regard to your beliefs around marriage, drugs, sexuality, etc.
- Do you feel safe and supported to express yourself? Could you trust them?
- Do you respect them and find them intelligent? Do you like what they said and the questions they asked?
Practical skills – empathy, clarity and integrity (Very important)
- Did you feel evaluated? Were they opinionated and giving you advice, or were they open and focused on listening to you?
- Did you understand their responses fully or were they filled with jargon?
- Did they ask questions to clarify or better understand you?
- Did they make guarantees or promises, or seem overly positive?
Training and experience (Important)
- Do they have at least 1-2 years of practical/clinical training?
- Did their training include supervision or going through therapy themselves?
- Are they accountable to a supervisor or peer group that they work with?
- Do they have experience working with what you need help with, especially with issues such as trauma, addictions, eating disorders and sexuality?
Approach to therapy (May be important)
- Do you prefer a certain school of psychotherapy? Each type is different in terms of its philosophy for treatment, which impacts what you can expect in a session, the role your therapist plays, what is discussed, how its discussed, etc (link to section on types of therapy)
- What is the therapist’s view towards medication, and does it align with your beliefs or preferences?
While affordability and convenience are also important, it is critical to find a good therapist to get any benefit from therapy. No therapy is better than bad therapy! Don’t ignore a negative gut feeling when deciding on a therapist.
At the same time, they don’t have to be perfect. They need to feel like a good match overall, someone you feel good about working with.