What Should I Consider When Choosing a Therapist?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 December 2019
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Considering some of the stigmas society has attached to mental health issues, even finding the inner resolve to seek out a therapist is a step in the right direction. Many people who could benefit from the services of a trained counselor often stop short of making an appointment simply out of fear or embarrassment. But once you've made the decision to seek therapy for emotional or mental health issues, how do you know which practitioner would make the best match for your particular needs? Training, expertise and personal rapport are definitely some areas to consider.

When considering the services of a therapist, one thing you should consider is accessibility. You may have to schedule more than one session per week, and very few professional therapists are routinely available on nights and weekends. You'll want to find one whose practice is within a reasonable distance of your workplace or home, since that is most likely where you'll be leaving from to attend the sessions. It's also best to look for someone with a flexible schedule, including late office hours or lunch hour availability, could help you balance your work responsibilities with your therapy session time. It is important to be able to separate your time with the counselor from your everyday routine.


Another consideration when choosing a therapist is compatibility. In the same way many women prefer a female gynecologist or men may seek out a male urologist, you may want to seek out a person based on personal factors such as age, gender, or demeanor. It may sound selfish, since all professional therapists receive the same training regardless of appearance, but you'll be working very intimately with this person for a long period of time. If you have concerns that a male counselor won't understand your issues as a woman, or a younger person may not be empathetic towards an older patient, then you may have to make your concerns known before starting therapy.

Under the large umbrella of mental health therapy are a number of specialties. When seeking out help for a specific issue, it may be best to look for someone who is a recognized specialist in that area. A marriage counselor uses a different set of skills than an anger management counselor, so it's important to have some understanding of what type of therapist would suit your particular needs best. Some psychotherapists based their entire practices on the treatment of specific age groups, for example. If you are an adolescent or young adult seeking therapy, you may have an easier time relating to someone who speaks your language rather than an older person who specializes in geriatric issues.

Even with specialties such as psychotherapy or "talk therapy", there are some subtle differences among therapists. Some are trained in the classic Freudian therapy style, which means the client and therapist will both actively participate in the sessions to achieve certain goals. Others may adhere to a Jungian philosophy, which generally encourages the client to talk through their concerns in a free-flowing conversation, minimally interrupted by the counselor's guiding questions. Some people prefer to have active discussions with their therapist, while others prefer to have a trained "sounding board" who will listen to them without judgment. Again, finding the right therapist for your specific needs may involve a little trial and error at first, but eventually you should find an ideal match.



Discuss this Article

Post 4

What I have done is the past is call a therapist and speak with them for a short while before seeing them regularly. This helped me determine how verbally expressive they are and how they react to different subjects.

Post 3

What about the price of therapy? Does price of a therapist's sessions say anything about how good they are at their work?

Should I go for a higher charging one, or does it not matter?

Post 2

From my short experience with therapy, I learned that it's crucial to see a therapist that is experienced, understanding and very professional.

I saw a therapist for several months last year. It was going really well at first, but then I began to be very affected by my sessions, being very emotional and crying a lot.

I really didn't know what to do and thought that maybe I should stop therapy for a while, which therapists call "putting it on the shelf" method. My therapist wasn't very happy about it though. He wanted me to keep going and solve all of my problems as soon as possible. But I was just not ready.

I also noticed that

at sessions where I was very emotional and cried, my therapist also become very emotional. He was young and not too experienced and that might have been the problem.

I'm still looking for a new therapist. I realized that I need someone who is going to give me all the time I need for this process and who can separate their emotions from their work.

Post 1

I agree, compatibility is extremely important. If you can research a little bit and ask about different therapists, that can point you in the right direction.

Not all of us have this option though. If I'm not wrong, most long-term therapy is not covered under insurance and if you don't have insurance, you will have to rely on community counselors and therapists. And finding the right one might require going for a couple of sessions and seeing what happens.

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