Choosing a therapist can be daunting. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. You are likely already searching the web for ideas and recommendations. Many therapists have websites, business pages, and other online resources where you can learn basic information about their experience, skills, and approach to therapy. You may also have sought recommendations from family and friends, your family doctor, clergy, or others whose opinion you trust, and perhaps you have developed a list of therapists to consider. How then do you take the next step to determine which therapist is your best choice?
Many factors may influence your decision and experience in therapy including the therapist's theoretical orientation/approach; education and training; experience, or lack of, with your particular issues; as well as factors such as therapist age and gender; and practicalities such as location and insurances accepted. Ultimately most important is whether:
- the therapist and their approach is the right fit for you and the issues you hope to address;
- your ability to establish a collaborative, trusting relationship with a particular therapist, and
- whether you and your therapist share an understanding of how change happens in your life and the role therapy will play in that process.
How then do you evaluate this goodness of fit with a therapist? You may already have a sense of this from your initial information gathering – does this therapist sound like someone I'd be comfortable opening up to? Do their ideas seem to fit my own experiences and beliefs?
Your next step, to contact a prospective therapist, is the most daunting and anxiety provoking for many of us, yet this is just another step in the information gathering process. Tell the therapist in a voice mail or email, or in person if you reach them the first time, that you are looking for a therapist and how you found them, either by a personal referral or on HelpPRO or another therapist finder, and that you would like to speak to them or possibly have a brief meeting to learn more about their approach and whether there might be a fit.
You may wish to “interview” several therapists by phone or via a free in office consultation or “meet and greet”. Some therapists offer and welcome free consultations while others do not, but you should always feel free to ask. Even if the therapist you call does not offer a free consultation, you can likely get a sense of the therapists's personality and communication style in their response. If the therapist has a receptionist who handles their calls or schedules appointments, see if you can arrange a time to speak with the therapist directly.
Stay tuned for part 2 next week for more about the interview process.
Brian Moynihan, LCPC, is a therapist working with teens and adults in Bangor, Maine. For more information and resources, go to http://BrianMoynihanLCPC.weebly.com.