Finding a Therapist That’s Right for You: What to Look For and What to Avoid
By Eva Fournel
Photo by Pexels
Making the decision to seek professional help is a huge step in one’s mental health journey. However, finding a therapist that’s the right fit can be challenging, whether it be a lack of local options or just a lack of connection between you two.
Fostering a strong, honest, and compatible relationship with your therapist can significantly improve the state of your mental health, while also optimizing and facilitating the process toward getting there. Therefore, finding the right mental health professional for you is worth the research and effort.
Taking the advice or recommendations from people in your inner circle is a great way to find a therapist! Your loved ones may know you well enough to pair you with a therapist suited for your needs.
However, it’s important to keep a few things in mind; First, nobody knows your needs better than you do! While a referral is a great way to jump-start the search process, it shouldn’t be the end-all be-all, and doing your own individual research is equally as important.
Secondly, a referral shouldn’t be too familiar either. Having a therapist that is too close to your inner circle can create a conflict of interest. So, if you’re going to start working with a therapist through referral, it’s important to be sure those ties don’t interfere with your therapeutic process, which should be uniquely yours.
Referrals can also come from resources such as your school (your college’s mental health resources most likely have connections to mental health professionals) or from your insurance provider directly (these therapists will be qualified, recommended, and financially covered).
Types of Therapy
Therapists will often describe their therapeutic approach by listing the types of therapy styles they practice. While some mental health professionals may select a therapy style for you based on your needs themselves, it can help to familiarize yourself with these styles to decide which ones best align with your goals.
Some of these types of therapy include:
CBT (Cognitive behavioral therapy)
DBT (Dialectical behavioral therapy)
Acceptance and Commitment therapy (ACT)
Relatability and Cultural Competence
Beyond experience and academic qualifications, not every therapist is equipped to understand your identity and personal struggles.
For one, being a minority can carry its own baggage that only a mental health professional of that minority or specialized in that experience can fathom.
Depending on sexual orientation/gender identity, religious affiliation, or cultural and racial background, it may be more effective and comfortable for some to find a therapist that classifies themselves as either part of these communities or as being trained in working with people with these experiences.
The Consultation Can Reveal A Lot
During the consultation, don’t be afraid to tell the therapist what you’re looking for and what you do and don’t feel comfortable with. Do your goals align with their style of therapy? Do you seek an approach of validation and conversation, or an approach closer to life-coaching and concrete advice?
This is your time to consider the questions that matter to you. These can include:
What are your qualifications?
Do you provide more long-term approaches or short-term approaches?
How quick is this therapist inclined to recommend a psychiatrist/medication?
Also, be sure to note your emotional experience with this therapist. Are you comfortable? Do you trust them? It’s important to envision this person being able to help and understand you for some time.
Is the therapist invalidating your experiences or disregarding their impact?
Is the therapist interrupting you?
Is the therapist talking too much or not enough for your liking?
Do you feel judged, or do you feel understood and respected?
It’s normal to change therapists if they aren’t the right fit- – sometimes this takes trial and error.
Therapy can be such an introspective and rewarding process, and while it can take some time and research, the benefits make it all worth it.