How to find a great therapist/counselor
It’s pretty easy to find any counselor/therapist but it might be more difficult to find one that is right for you.
The single most important factor in determining the right therapist for you has nothing to do with years of training or modality of treatment.
It is something more difficult to measure and no one can really know what it is but you. However, I’ve figured out the mystery of finding a great therapist/counselor for you!
I think of the idea of going to see a therapist or counselor as preventative maintenance for your emotional and mental health. I think it is safe to say that most people will schedule regular dental check-ups and yearly physicals, it is just as important to make sure you are scheduling regular mental, emotional, and relationship check-ups as well.
Your Relationship is too valuable to not invest in it.
So how does one choose a therapist or counselor?
It is important that you choose someone that respects your opinion, your input, and your individuality. One of the most important things to consider when entering a therapeutic relationship is whether the values of the therapist or counselor match your values. Discussing personal matters is very sensitive and you should feel comfortable and confident with your therapist/counselor.
The connection you have with your therapist/counselor is essential. You need someone who you can trust—someone you feel comfortable talking to about difficult subjects and intimate secrets, someone who will be a partner in your recovery.
Counseling won’t be effective unless you have this bond, so take some time at the beginning to find the right person. It’s okay to ask questions when interviewing potential therapists/counselors.
Initial phone call
When you have found a potential therapist/counselor it is a good idea to talk to them on the telephone. You can find out whether the therapist/counselor feels able to help you with your problem and discuss practical matters such as whether they have appointments at a time and place that suits you and how much they charge. A phone conversation will also give you a sense of what the therapist/counselor is like and whether you would feel comfortable working with them.
Therapists/Counselors often use answering machines to avoid interruptions during their client sessions; so don’t be surprised if you don’t reach your chosen therapist/counselor right away. Leave a message and they will return your call.
Before agreeing to see a particular therapist/counselor, ask yourself:
- Would you feel comfortable telling them about intimate details of your life?
- Do you feel safe with them?
- Do you like their manner towards you?
- Could you be completely open with them?
Once you are in therapy, ask yourself:
- Am I intimidated by my therapist/counselor?
- Does my therapist/counselor listen to me?
- Do I feel I can disagree with my therapist/counselor?
- Can my therapist/counselor admit if they are wrong about something?
- How does my therapist/counselor handle crisis and conflict?
- Is my therapist/counselor comfortable with my feelings and the content of what I have to say?
- Does my therapist/counselor help me understand his/her approach?
Saying what is on your mind and speaking up for your rights are not always easy to do in counseling (or in life). Nevertheless, try to be assertive to get what you need.
In my experience, a good therapist is an authentic person who helps you meet your goals for therapy and make the changes you want in your life.
What about Couples Counseling?
When it comes to couples counseling the earlier you go, the better. I have found that couples who check in with a couples counselor and work to strengthen their relationship tend to have greater success in their relationships. Yet, most couples wait until they’re distressed or one partner wants out of the relationship, this makes it harder to create positive change.
Whatever place you’re in as a couple, finding a skilled specialist is key.
Your Relationship is too valuable to not invest in it.
Too often, counselors say they do couples counseling or marital therapy if they have two people sitting in the office. This is incorrect.
Make sure your therapist has received specific training (such as a Marriage & Family Therapist, MFT) and is experienced in couples counseling. Couples counseling requires very different skills than doing individual therapy. Individual therapists usually help people identify and process feelings. They assist them in achieving personal goals. A therapist can be very skilled as an individual therapist and be clueless about helping couples change.
A Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) will focus on understanding your symptoms within interactions and relationships. The existing environment and context is given careful examination paying particular attention to the family system – as defined by you.
Finding a Therapist or Counselor
There are several ways to locate a therapist:
Personal contact: The best way to find a good therapist is word-of-mouth. Satisfied customers say a lot about the kind of therapy you will receive. Although you might feel embarrassed to ask friends or family for a referral, you should consider doing it anyway. Make sure the potential therapist can answer the questions above to your satisfaction.
On the phone: Some mental health services are listed in the phone book in the government pages. In the yellow pages, therapists may be listed under, “counseling,” “couples counseling,” “marriage & family therapists,” “psychotherapists,” “individual counselor,” or “mental health.”
Online: Some organizations have databases that allow you to search for a therapist/counselor in Washington State. Most databases provide the therapist’s credentials, areas of expertise, and types of therapy they provide. A caveat is that in some sites, the therapist needs to belong to the organization to be listed.
Some helpful sites include:
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy: http://www.therapistlocator.net/
Psychology Today – Therapy Directory: http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/
With all of the counselor choices available to clients now, finding the right one can seem like an overwhelming task. But by keeping these items in mind, you will be sure to find a counselor who you can feel confident in starting a professional relationship with.
Your comfort level and the relationship that you have with your therapist are the most important factors within therapy that will determine the outcome of your work together.
The most important factor in finding a therapist is the quality of the relationship that you feel you have with them.
Going through all of this can be pretty overwhelming. However, it is better to do your homework in advance and not have to waste your time, money or patience bouncing from one therapist to the next. You, the client are always in charge of the process.