Written by: Janesse Leung
You may have heard or read about different types of counselling therapy and maybe you’re confused about which one to try. Perhaps you’re worried about “fit” — how to find a therapist that is right for you.
First, pat yourself on the back for your commitment to working on your issues and for understanding that you need to do this challenging work with the guidance of someone you trust.
Where Do I Find a Therapist?
- Ask friends and family. If you know people who are in therapy ask them if they like their therapist, and if so, why? Strict rules may prevent a therapist from seeing you, but your friends or family can ask for a list of other therapists.
- Call a therapy centre. Therapy centres often have a service where a clinic director will do an intake to determine what therapist and approach would be a good fit for you. Centres often have extensive experience matching patients and therapists so this can be a very effective way to connect with a therapist.
- Shop online. Reputable therapists do advertise their services online. Training institutes may list graduates and their practice locations and specialties. Psychology Today magazine has a “Therapy Finder.” If you travel or prefer to work with a therapist not in your area, you may want to consider online therapy where you see and speak with a therapist via a webcam connection.
- Listen to your intuition. Take a look at therapists’ pictures, listen to their phone conversation style. Did you feel like the therapist was listening to you? Therapy is a situation in which it’s good to listen to your gut feeling. You don’t have to continue with a therapist to avoid hurting his or her feelings.
What Kind of Therapist Do I Need?
A listing for a therapist will usually give you a few details about their methods. Here are a few general approaches that might help you sort through the list and give you a basis for thinking about what kind of therapy might interest you:
- Do you believe there may be unconscious motivations for your behavior—do you find that you are certain of some things in life but can’t really explain why? To explore unconscious motivations, you might want to go to a psychodynamic therapist.
- Do you find you sometimes think negatively? Does the “little voice” in your head drag you down or are you “stuck in your head” arguing with yourself? If this sounds familiar, you might want a cognitive therapist.
- A Narrative, behavioral, or solution-oriented therapies are something to consider if you do not want to talk about your parents or the past and prefer to focus on the present.
- If you want to work on your family and not just on you, then try family-oriented or systems therapy.
- Do a quick internet search to get a general idea of a therapist’s approach. Your best bet, as we’ll discuss next, is to ask the therapist, “What is your orientation? How would I experience that orientation?”. You may want to call several therapists and see whose approach fits best with you.
Contacting a Potential Therapist?
You find one or maybe a list of a few therapists in your area, it’s time to gather your nerve and get in touch. This may not be easy, especially if your problem is social anxiety. Fortunately, answering questions from potential clients is part of a therapist’s job. Remind yourself that therapists enter the profession because they are interested in people and want to help.
Be prepared to leave a message with your name and contact information if you’re calling so the therapist can contact you. You may want to have your questions written on a piece of paper ready for when you take the call.
- What is the therapist’s orientation, and where was his or her training? Prestigious schools don’t necessarily make for the best therapists, but it’s a good opening question. This is a good time to make sure the therapist will be covered if you have insurance that covers only certain types of qualifications.
- What is the therapist’s specialty or area of interest? Has he/she worked with people with your issues? On the phone, you can describe what brings you to begin therapy and see how the therapist responds.
- Is the therapist licensed? If so, you can note the association. Before beginning therapy it may be a good idea to contact the licensing body to confirm the therapist is in good standing and ask whether he or she has any infractions.
- Before setting up an appointment, if you want to, ask about fees. If affording therapy will be difficult, you can ask if the therapist has a sliding scale (lower rates based on financial need). If you like everything about this therapist, but his or her rate is more than you can manage, I would share this and ask for referrals. The therapist might know someone with a similar approach who works at a lower fee.
If you don’t have insurance and can’t afford the fees, look into seeing a therapy student. Training institutes usually have students or interns who have received extensive training and will also work with you under the supervision of a very experienced therapist. If your situation is urgent, there may also be local resources available to you.
Have I Chosen the Right Therapist?
Check in with how you felt when you were in the room with your new therapist after your first appointment. Do you feel he or she was listening closely? It’s normal to feel nervous beginning therapy, but did you feel better towards the end? How does the idea of another appointment sound? Are there any specific issues that make it difficult for you to trust therapists? If there are, it might be time to pick another therapist. If you decide that it isn’t a good match, then you don’t need to go back. Contact the therapist promptly to say you don’t think he or she is the best fit for you. It may take several tries to find a therapist you work well with. Anxieties about therapy sometimes motivate the desire to not go back to therapy.
The right therapist will be an ally and a skilled guide for self-exploration. No therapist will have all the answers, or do all the work. But the right therapist for you will be someone you trust, and will help and guide you as you find answers you need.
Edited by: Mayte Parada, PhD Psychology. Montreal Therapy Centre.