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How Do I Choose a Therapist

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

Therapy, or counseling, is an opportunity to resolve emotional, behavioral, and relationship issues and improve thoughts and feelings, with an unbiased licensed  professional. There are many approaches to therapy. Some therapists prefer a more behavioral approach, in which behaviors are targeted to influence emotions. Other therapists may take an insight based approach, creating awareness to promote lasting behavioral and emotional change.  While some approaches have been shown to be more effective for certain issues, the primary catalyst for change is the relationship you develop with your therapist. 

What should I look for in a therapist?

Being that the relationship, or therapeutic alliance, between client and therapist is so important, finding the right therapist can be a daunting task. In California, there are over 106,000 licensed psychologists. So what should you look for and what questions should you ask during your first session?

Many of your questions should be answered during your first session. However, you may have additional questions for your therapist that haven’t been covered. It can be uncomfortable to ask questions of a medical provider. We don’t regularly ask our doctors and nurses about their competency or approach to medicine. No need to fear, a competent therapist is prepared to answer these questions. Here are some to consider: What is your approach to therapy? Can you explain your treatment approach/style? Have you ever treated someone with my condition/issue/goals? How active will I be in treatment planning?  What happens if I lose my job or am suddenly unable to afford your fees? Have you ever worked with someone of my race/ethnicity/gender/sexuality/etc? After your first session, you may want to check in with yourself - Did you feel comfortable with your therapist? - Did you feel emotionally safe? - Did you feel your therapist could empathize with your difficulties? - Did you feel heard and understood? - Do you feel hopeful?

Trust your instinct. Not every therapist-client pairing is a match. If you’d like to keep looking, that’s okay. Give yourself permission to trust your instinct but be cautious of therapist hopping. Sometimes it can be easier to say, “that therapist is no good” when we are uncomfortable.  At the end of the day, you are the expert of you. When you find a therapist who feels safe, authentic, and empathetic take the plunge. Your choice to seek therapy is the first step in living your best life. 

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