The process to find a therapist can feel like online dating. It usually begins with a search- therapists near me, counselors near me, therapy for anxiety. You scroll through bright, happy websites full of professional photos of well-lit, smiling people. They all say pretty much the same thing. You’re stuck and I can help you. They have lots of buzzwords. Change. Transform. Holistic. Wellness. Some list a fee or insurance networks they accept. Many don’t. It can seem like there’s no real difference between them. But there is, and it’s not something you can see from a website. It’s their personality.
How to Find a Good Therapist
After all the effort you’ve put into finding a therapist, it’s tempting to pick the first one who calls you back. But it’s worth it to find a therapist who really gets you. Studies show that the relationship you have with your therapist is the biggest predictor of success in therapy. It’s not the methods- results show that the therapy method doesn’t matter so much.
Treat the first session or consultation like a first date- it’ll probably be a bit awkward and you don’t really know each other but you’re trying to see if it’s a good fit and trying to make a positive first impression while being authentic about your experiences and struggles.
Find a Therapist Who Offers A Consultation
Many therapists offer a free initial consultation so you’re not dropping over a hundred dollars on someone you don’t want to see again. A free consultation is a great way to find a therapist you really get along with. While many consultations are limited to only 15-20 minutes, that should be enough time to see if you want to get deep with that person.
9 Signs You’ve Found The One:
*note: many of these signs reference California legal and ethical standards for therapists with a state license and may not apply in other states.
- They’re above board from the start. Your therapist should feel open to answering any of your questions. If they seem hesitant, that’s a sign they’re uncomfortable talking about what they do. It also indicates that they may be trying to hide something.
- They can explain the process of therapy to you. Every therapist does therapy a bit differently, but the time you spend in therapy generally has a beginning, middle, and end. If the professional therapist can’t tell you what to expect in therapy, watch out! They might not know what they are doing or they might want to bring you in with no defined end so you’re in therapy for years (and paying every week!). You should be planning for the end from the beginning.
- They listen to you. After the required details are taken care of, the therapist should ask you why you’re coming to therapy. Depending on the therapist’s methods and the nature of your problems, they might ask about your childhood, your relationships, your sleep habits, or even your current thoughts and feelings. But listening is only the first part.
- You feel heard. Some therapists listen but you’re not quite sure they’ve really understood what you were saying. It’s a good sign when your therapist reflects back what they heard you say and asks if they’ve got it right. That shows they’re actually trying to get your perspective accurately and are willing to ask for clarification.
- They ask about your end goals. There are a few ways they might ask about this. Phrases like “if the problem was gone, what would be different” and “how would you like things to be with your job” are indicators that your therapist is looking for specific, measurable goals so they know when you’re heading for the end phase of therapy.
- You feel comfortable. Therapy takes a while. You should have a comfortable place to meet with your therapist that’s private. This may seem like a small thing, but it’s important. If you don’t feel like you can relax and be open in the session, it’ll be easier for you to skip sessions later when you’ve got something difficult to say.
- You like the look of your therapist. It can seem shallow to judge someone by their appearance, but it’s actually pretty important. If you feel attracted to them, you might not be completely honest about the weird parts of your past. If they seem too young, too old, or too close to your own age, you might not feel able to trust their judgment. Some people need to see an older therapist who reminds them of their grandparent. Couples may prefer to see a married therapist. Teens often like therapists who are either younger adults or older adults- not someone parent aged. A person who has experienced sexual assault may want to see someone completely different in race and gender from their attacker. You don’t need a reason, but you do need to feel safe.
- The therapy style seems like a match. If you’re more analytical, look for a therapist who can explain your anxiety in a more technical way. If you’re a creative type, steer clear of the technical therapist and look for someone who will do process art, dance therapy, or music therapy with you. A good therapist is the one that’s right for you.
- You’re comfortable with the fee. Most people aren’t comfortable talking about money, especially when it comes to admitting that something is too expensive. If you really feel like this is someone you could work well with, consider what you might have to do to afford their fee. Since therapy doesn’t last forever, it’s only a temporary sacrifice.
Did You Find Your Therapist?
If they’ve got all these factors, you’ve found a match! Just remember, first sessions are often like first dates, and if you can afford it, give a maybe therapist a few sessions to get to know you before making a final decision. Of course, a red flag therapist shouldn’t get a second session- get out of there right away if you feel uncomfortable or if they’re clearly doing illegal or unethical things.