How To Choose A Therapist That's Right For You
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated May 25, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn
If you're reading this article right now, you probably fall into one of two groups. The first group is people that had tried therapy before but didn't have a therapist that they liked. You either didn't get the results you were looking for or didn't connect with the therapist well enough to continue going. The second group is people who are just starting to contemplate going to therapy. Whichever group you find yourself in, you're probably wondering how to choose a therapist that's right for you.
How To Know That It's Time To See A Therapist
There are many different reasons why people see a therapist. According to Mental Health America, "An estimated 54 million Americans suffer from some form of mental disorder in a given year." This means there are a lot of people who could use the help of a therapist.
These numbers don't just include people that are diagnosed with things like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It also includes people that suffer from anxiety and depression. But, you don't need to be diagnosed with a mental health challenge or disorder to benefit from going to see a therapist.
Therapists can help people with daily life stresses. They can teach people improved communication skills that will benefit their relationships as well as time management and organizational skills that can help improve their job situation. And, sometimes it's just helpful to have a therapist to talk to when you have a big life decision that you're trying to make or something that you're trying to overcome.
Does Therapy Work?
Therapy works under the right circumstances. Research that looked at 27 different studies found that psychotherapy had high success rates. But, this comes with a word of advice. Therapy can only be as successful as the amount of work that you're able to put into it.
If you attend therapy sessions daily but choose not to listen or act on the advice that your therapist is giving you, it's not going to work. But, if you are willing to listen and try the exercises they give you and do the homework they assign, you can see a great improvement in your mental challenges.
Therapy is not always a quick fix. Some types of therapy help you make a lot of progress in just a few sessions. But other mental health disorders may require you to see a therapist for a longer period to make the progress you need. Each person is different, and each disorder is different. It may take time for you to see the improvement that you're looking for. However, if you are participating in your sessions and doing the work that your therapist wants you to, you should see progress along the way. Some sessions might go better than others, but for the most part, if you stick with it, you are going to notice the changes that you're looking for.
How To Choose A Therapist
Choosing a therapist is not as easy as opening up the yellow pages or hitting Google to search for a local therapist. While these are strategies that you can use, they might not be the most effective way to find a licensed mental health professional that's right for you. Here are some things that you should be looking for.
Understanding Who The Therapist Serves
While licensed therapists might be able and educated in a wide range of areas, it doesn't mean that they're great at serving every one of them. If you have a specific challenge that you're struggling with, it's best to find a therapist specializing in that area.
For example, it can be best to find a couple's counselor if you're dealing with relationship issues. Or, if you have been diagnosed with PTSD, it will be beneficial for you to find a licensed mental health professional experienced in treating patients with the disorder. When a therapist specializes in specific areas of mental health, they are continuing to learn and train in that specific area. This means you may be getting the most effective form of treatment for your specific challenge.
You can think of this as being similar to seeing a general practitioner for your physical health. While they can help you with most medical situations, there is a time when they're going to refer you to a specialist for certain things. That specialist is specifically trained in certain areas, and that's why it's a benefit to see them. This is the same thing with your mental health professionals.
Looking At Credentials
There are a lot of people that call themselves a therapist. You could do counseling with religious leaders, life coaches, psychiatrists, psychologists, and many others. This is why it's so important to check the therapist's credentials that you're going to be working with.
You will want to know if they are educated in the area that you need help in. It's also helpful to see if they are licensed. It can be worth doing a little bit of research and due diligence to ensure that the therapist you're working with is experienced and educated.
Ask For Referrals
Word-of-mouth referrals are always helpful in any industry. This is also true with mental health professionals. If you have family and friends you know have been in counseling before, you can ask them if they liked the therapist they worked with. They may be able to give you a great referral to someone they liked.
However, you need to remember that not all people have the same opinions. If they were counseling for something completely different from you, their therapist might not be the right fit for you. So even if you receive word-of-mouth referrals, you're still going to want to look into the other areas listed here as well.
The cost of therapy can be all over the board across America. According to Tervo, "the average 45 to 60-minute session costs between $60 and $120." And that's just for one session. Depending on your specific situation, you may want to have sessions once a month or a few times every week. These costs can add up quickly.
Recent changes to health insurance policies have made it more likely that companies are covering mental health expenses. However, they are a lot of limitations that come along with this coverage. You may not end up benefiting from the coverage as much as you think. Due to the complexity of being paid, many therapists are no longer accepting medical insurance. This can mean that you have to pay out of pocket for your therapy sessions.
Some therapists try to help patients with affordability by offering rates on a sliding scale. This means that those who make less money are required to pay less for each session. Another option to consider that it can be more affordable than traditional in-person counseling is to do online therapy.
Some of the best-rated therapists have a long waitlist for appointments. So, while you may be getting to see someone with a lot of experience, you may have to wait longer than you're comfortable with. This can be a big deal, depending on what challenges you're facing. If you are deeply struggling, you will not want to wait for months to get in to see a therapist.
As you interview a therapist to find the one that's right for you, you should ask about their availability.
Don't Give Up If The First One Isn't a Good Fit.
The first therapist that you work with might not be the best fit for you. This does not mean that therapy does not work, and it doesn't mean that you need to quit altogether. It can be helpful to meet with a therapist more than once unless you're uncomfortable with them. It will take time to develop a connection with them. But, if you are so uncomfortable from the start that you can't trust that therapist, you need to look for a different one.
To make the progress, you're looking for, you're going to need to be comfortable with the therapist you're meeting with. You will be sharing personal details about your life with them, and it may be things that you haven't shared with any other person. So, if the first one isn't a good fit, don't hesitate to look for another.
Choosing the right therapist can take some time, or you may get the right one on your very first try. Either way, it's well worth the time that you spend looking for a therapist to get the help that you need.
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