Who is the best therapist for you?
If you read last month’s blog post and you’re ready to start therapy, Congratulations! Choosing to start therapy is a big decision but it is an amazing investment in your mental health. Now that you’ve made the decision, you need to find a therapist. Are you feeling overwhelmed, or unsure of how to go about it? From multiple therapist directories that list hundreds of therapists, to friends or family that recommend their favorites, there are tons of options – but how do you make sense of them all? How do you even know if a given therapist is any good at what they do? And how do you know if they can help you? Don’t worry. We’re here to help. Here’s our guide to finding the right therapist for you.
Questions to ask yourself to narrow down the best therapist for you
We are all so different. We have different likes and dislikes, different preferences, and different things work for different people. When someone says that their therapist is the “best therapist”, what they are actually saying is that their therapist is the “best therapist FOR THEM”. For these reasons, your first step in identifying the best therapist for you is to ask yourself some questions about what will work best for you.
- Gender: Would you prefer to meet with a female, male, or nonbinary therapist? Do you think you would feel more comfortable talking to someone that is the same gender as you or different?
- Age: Does their age matter to you? Would it feel better to talk to someone who is a similar age to you, older, or younger?
- Race: Is the therapist’s race important to you? How do think working with someone of the same or different race would impact the work that you do in sessions?
- Religion/Spirituality: Like race, do you think similarities or differences in a therapist’s religious or spiritual views would be helpful for you?
- Lived experience: Is it important for you to work with someone who has experienced similar difficulties in their life? Do you think you’d feel better understood?
- Consider anything else that is important to you that you think could help or get in the way of therapy being helpful for you. Are their political beliefs important to you, do they have to be a dog lover, or anything else?
While you might not be able to find out all of these personal details upfront (or ever, depending on how open your therapist is about themselves), it is helpful that have an idea of the characteristics that you think would help you to feel most comfortable opening up in therapy sessions to get the most out of them.
Once you’ve identified the personal characteristics of an ideal therapist, you now need to consider their education and experience. Begin by identifying what issues you are dealing with and what your goals are. This information is important as you begin your research.
- What is the education and experience of the therapists you are considering? This information can often be found on their website or therapist directory listing but you can also ask these questions when you call for more information.
- Do they have specialized training or certifications in the issues you are struggling with?
- How much experience do they have working with people with similar issues?
- How successful have they been with clients struggling with the same problems?
- What types of therapy do they practice? Is that type of therapy known to be helpful with the problem you are presenting with? Is it an evidence-based practice, where research has shown that it helps with the symptoms you are experiencing?
- What type of therapy do you want? Are you someone who is more interested in solutions based on changing thoughts and behaviors, which is part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or are you more interested in exploring how your childhood and your past are impacting your life right now, which occurs in Psychodynamic therapies and Internal Family Systems? Or maybe you want to work more with how feelings are stuck in your body using EMDR or Somatic Therapies?
After you get answers to some of the previous questions, the next step is to begin your online search. Google things like “Anger Management Therapist in Philadelphia”, “Anxiety Therapy near me”, or “Postpartum Anxiety Therapy“. The first things that you will see are the large national companies. Scroll past these if you want a more personalized match. Click on local therapy companies and the therapy directories. Review the information on the websites and directories to see who you think might be a good fit based on what you are looking for. Try to narrow down your top picks to 3-5 people so as not to overwhelm yourself with too many options.
The next step is reaching out to these therapists. Most therapists have options to call, email them through their website, and/or schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation. Choose the option that you are most comfortable with, making sure that you get a chance to talk to someone to get a better feel for them. Take advantage of the 15-minute phone consultations to see how you feel talking to the therapist or their staff person. Ask any questions that are important to you about the therapist, how they work with their clients, and particulars about cost and scheduling. If the therapist is not the best fit for you, ask for recommendations from them.
Your final step is to schedule and attend that first appointment. Pay attention to how you feel during the first appointment. Do you feel heard and understood? What do your gut feelings say? Keep in mind that you will probably feel anxious meeting with a therapist for the first (or second, or third, etc…) time. Try to separate the anxiety associated with talking to a stranger about personal problems from how it feels overall to talk to this person. If it feels good, great! If not, talk to the therapist about it.
We hope this article has helped you in finding the right therapist for you. (Click here for another article in which Alisa Kamis-Brinda, LCSW, LCADC was quoted on the same topic.) Serenity Solutions specializes in anxiety, anger management, perinatal anxiety, and addictions. Call us now at 267-317-8817 or schedule your free 15-minute phone consultation here. We have openings and can also provide referrals if we are not the right fit. We are here to help.