How to Select a Therapist

Finding a therapist who can be a good match for your needs may take a lot of your time, money, and energy. I would like to offer some tips that might make “shopping” for a therapist easier. My suggestions are based on my personal experience as a therapy patient or, in marketing terms , a consumer of therapy services and on my professional experience as a therapist.

In general, I see selecting a therapist being similar to finding and hiring any professional. There is a pre-interview stage during which you find a handful of candidates. Next, you interview them either by phone or in person or both, and, finally, decide whom you will hire.

The difference when you look for a therapist is that you can let your feelings influence your decision much more than when you hire any other professional. Normally, it is not a good idea to put your feelings or emotions in charge, but therapy work is unique because it is largely constructed around feelings and emotions. The premise of therapy for the patient is to discuss their personal matters with the therapist for the purpose of improving their emotional state and/or life situation. The exposure of one’s personal material makes one vulnerable and, therefore, should not take place without a basic sense of safety. If something about the prospective therapist makes you uncomfortable, don’t take a second guess and move onto interviewing the next candidate before you spend a large sum of money only to realize that you and the therapist aren’t a good fit.

During the pre-interview stage, you will be mostly using one of the two sources for selecting candidates or both of them: personal connections and online sources (therapists’ online directories and Google search). I don’t think that one source is in any way better than the other. Each one has its up and down sides. Some people only trust referrals that come through their connections, some prefer to use online directories and search engines, others do both. I, personally, suggest using both sources as it increases your chances to find a decent therapist.

When you get a referral from someone you know, they often will tell you their impression or opinion about the therapist they are recommending, and that is a valuable piece of information you won’t get if you use online sources. On the other hand, the mere fact that this therapist helped somebody you know or is recommended to you by somebody you know is not a guarantee that they will be able to help you. They might be very experienced and knowledgeable and still not be a good fit for you on a personal level. Besides, when a referral comes through personal connections, you won’t be able to form your own impression about the therapist before you meet them. By comparison, when you look at therapists’ online profiles and websites, you can get an intuitive sense about who they are before you contact them and this way won’t have to waste your time and money on someone who does not appeal to you from the beginning.