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What to Look for When Choosing a Therapist

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Updated: April 15, 2007

It is important to find a therapist that works for you. Below are some things that you should look for when choosing a therapist. This is someone that you are going to be working with for quite awhile, so take care at the start to select the person that is right for you. The therapist you choose should meet all of the criteria below. It is important to discus these issues before engaging in therapeutic relationship with someone.

Look for a therapist who:

  1. Has the training and education to treat you.

    It is important that you choose a therapist who is licensed to practice independently, such as: LCPC, LPCC, LSCW, LISW, PhD, MD. A life coach is not necessary a trained and licensed professional, and therefore should be avoided. Some therapists also work as life coaches, but they maintain their license to practice clinically. Look for the stated credentials. Look for a therapist trained in “talk-therapy” who also has some knowledge of medication (only MDs are able to prescribe medication, so other clinicians can provide some information, but will have to refer you to a MD for meds).

  2. Puts you at ease.

    The therapist should take responsibility for creating a warm, nurturing, and safe environment for therapy. A sense of humor is a real plus. It is important that the therapist challenges you when necessary, while at the same time creating a general environment of acceptance.

  3. Encourages you to shop around for the right therapist.

    It is important for you to get a sense of the therapist before you commit to seeing her, even for the first appointment. Look for someone who is available to have a 10 – 15 minute phone conversation so that you can interview her and get a sense of her style and you comfort level.

  4. Fits the clinical approach to the client

    The therapist should not try to fit the client to his preferred clinical approach. No matter how great one approach works, it will not work for all clients. A good therapist works to figure out what works with each person and move forward from there. In addition, you want someone who is amenable to having others join sessions as appropriate.

  5. Is Emotionally Healthy.

    You want a therapist that feels good about himself/herself. Look for someone who appears to feel at ease and confident. Although look out for arrogance, depression, or nervousness. These can impede the therapeutic relationship and impact the benefit of therapy.

  6. Addresses the possibility of seeing you outside the sessions.

    The world can be a very small place, and it is likely, even in large cities, that you and your therapist will run into one another outside of the session. The therapist should hold your confidentiality and privacy as paramount, and give you specific information about how you can expect them to respond to these situations. It is important that you do not end up feeling uncomfortable due to accidentally running into him outside of the session.

  7. Provides you with clear office policies.

    These should include the limits of confidentiality, client rights, and what to do in an emergency. You should be able to have copies of all office policies.

  8. Lets you explain your issues as you experience them.

    Be wary of those who seem to pigeon-hole you. Even if you present with a specific diagnosis, like BPD, you want the therapist to allow you to be an individual and not assume that they know everything about you.

  9. Be wary of someone who seems aloof or disengaged in the session.

    The silent therapist, who does not answer questions, is not going to be a good fit for most people, especially those with BPD. To be successful, therapy should be experienced as an ongoing dialogue within an accepting relationship.

  10. Maintains clear and healthy boundaries.

    Although the therapist should be flexible, and approachable, it is important that she consistently maintain appropriate boundaries with every client. There should be no sexual overtures, no business offers, and no touching (hugging, etc.) that makes you feel uncomfortable.

  11. Does not see themselves as better than you.

    The therapist should always be respectful and decent, and never condescending. You want a therapist who does not demean or belittle, but treats you much as an equal. In addition, beware of therapists who convey that they would never go to therapy.

  12. Presents as professional, knowledgeable, and an expert.

    You want someone competent and experienced to guide you as you deal with really difficult issues.

  13. Listens to your thoughts about your therapy.

    Your therapist should be open to your feedback regarding the therapy. Therapy can be difficult, and at times you may become frustrated with the whole process, it is important that you are able to discuss these feelings with your therapist.

  14. Reviews these issues without getting defensive.

    Therapists should be open to clients making informed decisions about their service providers. Someone who is reluctant to discuss these issues may not meet the criteria of being your therapist.

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  6. How to Choose a Therapist - What to Look for When Choosing a Therapist

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