Guidelines for finding a therapist

April 7, 2016


It is a personal decision to choose a therapist but sometimes it is a struggle.  Thoughts run through your head: What if I pick the wrong one?  Will they mess me up?  Will I waste my time?  Finding yourself googling “help” or “therapist” at 2 am when you are having difficulty sleeping makes it even more frustrating because you need help now.


Here are some guidelines to help you find a therapist.


Set your own criteria:  You are hurting so how do you know who will care for you well?  Its about finding the right fit so:  why do you need a therapist? Are you dealing with loss? A relationship issue? Self doubt? Anxieties? Parenting? Or something else? You have just found your first criteria; you need a therapist who works with that particular issue.


Who do you like to deal with?  Think about your hair stylist, real estate agent, doctor, chiropractor etc. and what it is that you liked about them?  What is it you didn’t?  Make a list of three characteristics that you want in a professional you enjoy dealing with.  This is your second criteria: what your therapist should act like.


Now its time to do the search.  If you have friends and family who have been in therapy or have connections to a therapist, start there and ask them for a recommendation.  Not everyone has those connections so sometimes its about utilizing google to find a therapist.  Start with googling your specific need, make sure you include your city so you get local results.


Look beyond the pretty:  Now you have a few websites of local therapists who deal with your issue so it’s time to see if they will match up with your personality.  Often we choose our therapist by their website or how they look online.  Recently, I was helping out a charitable organization and I was tasked with buying snow cone supplies for an event.  I found a website which as very professional and well put together.  When I realized it had a local pick up address which would save the expense of shipping, I arranged with the customer service department of the company to pick up the supplies.  I arrived at the location to find it was a man working out of his garage.  I am all for small businesses but there was a difference between the professional website that listed a customer services department, billing department and warehouse department and one guy with a cat.  Through this experience I found out that websites can make someone look different than they are.


Look at the content.  Does the therapist’s website speak about issues that matter to you?  If they have a blog, is what they say consistent with your values?  Think back to the criteria you made: does it match what you are looking at? 


Book an appointment:  Now that you have found someone you think will be able to connect with its time to take that leap of faith and book an appointment. Think of it as trying on shoes at the store, you’re going to check for comfort level before you end up wearing a pair of sneakers that pinch your toes.  Therefore, the first appointment is to try them on for size.  For your benefit, the therapist will direct the conversation so they can understand you and start working towards helping you reach your goals.  During that conversation, ask yourself how does it feel?  The first appointment can be a little nerve racking and uncomfortable but overall did you feel hopeful?  It all comes down to one thing:  Did you connect with the therapist? If the answer is no, you have a wonderful resource in front of you who should be able to refer you to someone who does.  If the answer is yes, it is a fit. Book another appointment.  You are on your way to feeling better.

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