Choosing a therapist can be daunting and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. In part 1 we talked about important factors and how to contact therapists to ask to talk either by phone or in person to determine “fit”. This week we “talk” about the interview process and what to ask the therapist.
In interviewing a therapist, pay attention not only to the content of the conversation, what they tell you about themselves and their approach to therapy, but also to how they interact with you. Do they take time to ask you for your ideas, theories, opinions? Do they listen and understand you? Does the interaction feel comfortable, respectful, caring? Consider what factors are important to you in your decision, and ask questions.
You may want to know more about the therapists’ education and training, background and experience, or their ideas about how to approach specific problems or issues. You may also have questions of a more personal nature about the therapist – a prospective therapist's age, whether the therapist has personal and life experiences with similar problems, is married, or has children. You might wonder if it is OK to ask these questions? Ethical codes and rules guide therapists around when self-disclosure of personal information is appropriate and can vary depending on a therapist's clinical orientation and philosophy. It is the therapist's job, however, to set these boundaries, so you should feel free to ask and they will tell you if they cannot answer!
Once again, even if the therapist cannot give you specific information, the way they respond will help you get a feel for their style and whether they might be a good fit. If, through this process, you get the sense this is not a good fit or not right for you, thank them for their time, move on, and remind yourself this was time well spent, saving you from moving forward with a therapist that wouldn't have been right.
In the end, if despite your efforts, you find yourself in therapy that is not a good match, or you do not feel heard or understood, take action sooner rather than later. While it is difficult to give feedback, particularly negative feedback, most therapists are in the profession to help, and without feedback cannot change how they work with you, or help you find a better fit therapist. This process may be beneficial in itself – some research shows better therapy outcomes when there is a minor problem or rupture in the therapy relationship that is repaired than when there are no ruptures at all! In the end however, if you are not getting your needs met, or do not find your therapist responsive to your concerns, it is important to recognize that and find a different therapist to meet your needs.
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.