Choosing a Therapist

Therapy involves a large commitment of time, money, and energy, and you probably have a great deal riding on its effectiveness, so you should choose a therapist thoughtfully.

Therapists’ profiles on their individual websites, social media such as Facebook, Linked-In, and Psychology Today, and professional resources such as the American Psychological Association, as well as the word of mouth recommendations of friends, co-workers, or family members, may serve as good starting points. These can be good resources for creating a “short list,” however, they are of limited value in knowing whether someone will be a good therapist for you. That’s a very individual determination—a friend’s needs and yours may be different—and requires meeting and perhaps having several exploratory sessions with a prospective therapist.

Your therapist must be someone you can come to trust enough to share your innermost concerns. You should experience him or her as understanding and accepting of you, and you should have a sense that what you say will be received with respect and held in safety. You should also sense that he or she won’t deliberately, diminish you, shame you, or hurt your feelings. It also helps if he or she is responsive to your questions and concerns.

These attributes are much more important than the therapist’s personality or whether he or she is someone you “like” as a person.

I recommend that you go ahead and schedule an initial interview with the therapist you are considering. This serves as a trial run during which you can learn how the therapist works with you and the problems you bring to his or her attention.

You may get the sense within a single session or even a few minutes that this person is not right for you. Then you move on to the next therapist on your short list. If you have a good feeling about this initial contact, I suggest that you go ahead and schedule a few more sessions. In that way, you will get a good sense of how you work together and how helpful the therapist may be.