When you need a therapist, you want someone you can trust, and someone who's wise and experienced, who can give you ideas and resources that are proven to be effective. And you want someone you'll be comfortable with, who's easy to talk to.
How do you choose the right mental health therapist?
Ask people you know and trust for referrals
Do you know someone who's seeing or has recently seen a therapist? Ask them if they'd be willing to share information about who they saw and how they liked the experience. It can be difficult to talk about needing a mental health professional with your loved ones, but if someone you love has had a good experience with a therapist, chances are good that you might too.
Be sure to ask for honest referrals. Find out if the therapist was helpful in resolving the issues/concerns the individual sought out counseling for. If you don't have any success in referrals with family and friends, you could also ask your doctor, a trusted religious leader, or your company's employee assistance program or HR department for a referral.
Do an interview (or two)
When you think you've found the perfect candidate for your therapist, ask them for a short interview. This might seem like a nerve-wracking experience but it doesn't have to be scary, and it could save you from committing to several sessions before you're sure about the therapist.
Gather a list of questions you'd like to ask before calling. Good questions to ask might include:
- Is he/she licensed? No matter their answer, it's a good idea to look up their license on your state's licensing boards just to be sure.
- Does he/she have a specialty, and have they obtained certification in this specialty? It's best to utilize a therapist who specializes in something rather than everything.
- Did he/she attend an accredited school for counseling?
- Have they helped anyone else who have similar issues to yours? This question will require you to share a little about what you're experiencing, but it will give you a good idea about what you can expect from that therapist.
- What kinds of training does he/she have? It does make a difference whether they've had a one-hour online training, or extensive academic training.
- Has he/she ever been in therapy? If not, they may have their own underlying issues that haven't been dealt with. These issues can creep into your work with them.
- Discuss fees and insurance. If their fee is too high, ask them for a referral to someone you may be better able to afford.
Trust your gut
How does your new therapist make you feel? Have you noticed any red flags? Do you feel helped and respected? Do you feel heard? A good therapist will devise a treatment plan with you during the first few sessions. This will include goals and objectives to help guide the therapy sessions. You should always feel like you are working on issues/concerns you want to address in therapy.
Remember: Unless you pay for several sessions at once, you're under no obligation to keep seeing a therapist who isn't a good fit for you.