How to Know a Therapist is The Right Fit
You’re thinking about starting therapy, but you are not sure what to look for in a therapist that you are going to mesh well with. Maybe you’ve never been in therapy before, so you are unsure what to ask a potential therapist. Maybe you’ve been in therapy in the past but have not quite found the right fit. Having been on both sides of the couch, it can understandably feel daunting. Here is a list of questions to consider to hopefully ease the process in deciding on a therapist.
- Does the therapist specialize in, or have experience with, the concern(s) that you’re bringing to therapy? This is a great question to look for in your search and to bring up in a consultation with a potential therapist. It is encouraged to ask them what their experience is working with the concern or concerns you have. If the therapist is not well-versed in this area, do not assume that it is an abnormal issue. There are so many reasons someone may come to therapy that it is nearly impossible for a therapist to have the expertise in every single one. It can be helpful to be referred to someone who has more knowledge in the area. Think of it like medical specialties. A general practitioner can give you an x-ray and identify that your foot it broken, but the doctor will most likely refer you to a podiatrist to treat it. A broken foot is not an abnormal issue; however, it is best treated by someone who specializes in it.
- What is their therapy style? The therapist’s job is to help guide you through your goals, and it is not their job to decide for you what those goals are. Therapy is a collaborative process; nonetheless, there are many ways in which a therapist can address session. Depending on the therapist’s approach, they may be more direct or indirect. They may take the lead, or they may let you take the lead. Some people want the ability to talk about recent conflict or concerns that came up, other people want to continue working on an ongoing concern, while others prefer a combination of the two. It is important that you have a therapist that helps you in a way that meets your needs.
- Do the therapy sessions match your budget? As you may be able to tell so far, therapy comes in many shapes and sizes, including the length, cost, and frequency of sessions. Therapy should help you work through your stresses and not create more, which coincides with making sure it fits into your budget. Prior to starting therapy, you should be aware of how much the sessions cost and the payment methods that are accepted. Therapy sessions can range in length, so it is important to know what your therapist offers. For example, you do not want to go in thinking you are paying a certain amount for an hour-and-a-half session when the price is per hour and therefore, the session cost is multiplied by 1.5. Similarly, you can determine how frequently you want to see your therapist to receive consistent therapy while also staying within budget. It is wise to see if your therapist offers weekly, biweekly, or as needed sessions depending on your needs.
- When is the therapist available? In order to see your therapist consistently, your schedules need to be aligned. Does the therapist offer morning sessions, but you are only available in the evening? Does the therapist only work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but those are your busiest days at work? If that is the case, the therapist may not be the best fit for you at the time, and they can potentially refer you to someone else who can meet your scheduling needs. Another way to look at this question is to find out if the therapist is available during sessions or if they are also available between sessions if an urgent matter comes up. Therapists have different protocols for this, so it can be helpful to know prior to choosing the therapist.
- What mode(s) of therapy does your therapist utilize? With working from home and distance learning becoming more prevalent over the past couple of years, many therapists now offer online services. Some therapists provide online sessions, some provide in-person sessions, and some offer a combination of the two. You may not have the time or transportation to go to an in-person session or you may not have the privacy at your home to attend online sessions. Based off your needs and preferences, you can choose a therapist who provides the mode of therapy that works for you.
- Do you feel comfortable with your therapist? Once you choose a therapist and you begin to meet with them, it is important that you feel comfortable opening up to them. This does not necessarily happen immediately as it is expected that you may need to warm up to one another, but the therapist should create a warm and inviting environment that welcomes you and fosters safety. They can create this through validation, humor, positive regard, or another strategy. You should not feel judged or the need to censor yourself in session because it is with open conversations that the best work is done.
Do not be discouraged if the first therapist you speak with is not the right fit for you. There are many variables that go into finding a therapist, and you have the freedom to decide which matches your needs the best. Some of your questions can be answered by looking at the therapist’s website, while others are best answered directly by the therapist. Many therapists offer 15-minute phone consultations, so you can absolutely shop around by speaking with different therapists prior to making a decision. You deserve to find a therapist that can help you navigate and work through your concerns!