Whether you are new to therapy or have been to see many therapists over the course of your life finding the right therapist to work with is important. Determining who is a "good fit" can seem like an overwhelming and stressful task due to worry over not wanting be judged, wanting to know you can connect with your therapist, and wanting to feel comfortable overall with your choice of provider.
As Amy Morin, LCSW (2020) expresses, "Looking through an online directory may yield hundreds (if not thousands) of results. How do you pick someone to work with based on a short bio and picture? And if you are seeking help through an online therapy platform, how do you find a good fit when you may be speaking to a therapist primarily through a text-based chat or video chat?"
Here is a quick guide to help you figure out what therapist is a "good fit" for you:
What Makes You The Most Comfortable?
Feeling comfortable with your therapist allows you to develop a strong connection, establish trust, and open up about those topics that make you feel most guarded. When considering who you may be comfortable working with, consider the following questions:
Would you feel more comfortable working with someone who identifies as a man, woman, or otherwise?
How do you feel about talking with someone who is older, younger, or the same age as you?
Do you think you would connect with a therapist that identified with a specific religious belief set or spiritual tradition?
Do you need more or less direction from your therapist?
Are there any other traits that you feel you need in your therapist?
While answering these questions, it is important to consider what you have found to be the most helpful in your life so far, as well. Some counselors utilize a counseling style focused around listening and processing to help you identify an answer for yourself, while others utilize a counseling style focused around challenging and directing you towards an answer. Others use a mixture of these two styles.
Not all of us end up in therapy feeling motivated to change or like we have the confidence to make changes in our lives and mental health. Some of us find ourselves in need of push in order to better ourselves and be held accountable for the changes that we are trying to make in our lives. However, some of us prefer taking time to reflect and evaluate what the potential options are before selecting the best option to act on.
After taking into consideration what makes you comfortable and the amount of direction you will need, you will have a majority of the criteria you need to lessen the number of search results on the online directories. A criteria that will help you further screen through potential therapists includes their education and specialties.
Credentials, Education, and Specialties
When searching for a therapist it is important to make sure they are licensed to practice; and determine whether they have experience working with the concerns that you are attempting to have addressed. In order to provide therapy a therapist needs to become licensed in your state of residence. In the field of mental health there are a wide variety of professions that are able to provide therapy services and each has their own licensing initials and specific qualifications that need to be met to be licensed. Morin (2020) shared a list of the common initials, including:
LCSW — Licensed Clinical Social Worker
LMFT — Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
NCC — National Certified Counselor
LCDC — Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor
LPC — Licensed Professional Counselor
LMHC — Licensed Mental Health Counselor
PsyD — Doctor of Psychology
PhD — Doctor of Philosophy
MD — Doctor of Medicine (physician psychiatrist)
In general, most mental health professions require the therapist to undergo education that includes having either a Masters degree (i.e., LCSW, LMFT, LCDC, LPC, LMHC) or Doctoral degree (i.e., PsyD, PhD, or MD) along with a set amount of experience completed in a supervised residency. In addition, the professionals need to take a licensing examination and maintain a set number of continuing education credits to stay current in their field. For a further distinction of the different mental health professions, you can check out the National Alliance on Mental Illness's article on Types of Mental Health Professionals or Very Well's The Types of Psychotherapists.
Every therapist has a different level of experience, and training resulting in some therapists choosing to specialize in a specific type of therapy or specific group of mental health disorders. When searching on online directories, these are typically referred to as specialties or areas of expertise. "Reading the bio can help you understand how much experience any certain therapist has in treating someone with issues similar to yours. And it can give you some insight into how that person works and what sorts of treatments they provide" (Morin, 2020).
Questions to Ask your Therapist
While reading a therapist's profile can provide valuable information and insight into some of their personality; and their experience, it can be important to ask questions of a therapist during a free consultation or during the first session to make sure they are a good fit for you.
When choosing the questions to ask your therapist, take time to consider any concerns that you have about the counseling process whether that includes their approach to confidentiality, handling emergencies, or working with new clients. Some standard questions to ask a new therapist recommended by Matthew Tull, P.D. (n.d.) include:
Are you licensed?
What kind of training have you received?
What is your treatment orientation?
How many patients with my diagnosis have you treated?
What is your area of expertise or specialty?
What is the cost per session?
Can you prescribe medication or make referrals to someone who can prescribe medication?
Do you stay up to date on the latest research on how to treat my diagnosis?
Will therapy be time limited or long-term?
Seeking Assistance and Getting Feedback
Searching for a therapist that you believe is a good fit can be a stressful and overwhelming process. As a result, it is important to seek support from others who may have recommendations of therapists they have worked with or know have a good reputation in the area. Do not be afraid to ask the therapist or the staff at the practices you reach out to if they have any recommendations if you do not feel they are a good fit or will not be able to meet your therapeutic needs. Finding a therapist who is a good fit allows you to feel comfortable and, establish a good therapeutic relationship while improving your ability to accomplish your therapy goals without the relationship with the therapist becoming a concern.
Interested in processing through what your attachment style may be or want to learn more about therapy? Schedule a consultation or session with a therapist or join a group today.
Amy Morin, L. C. S. W. (2020, December 24). Here's How to Pick a Therapist You'll Likely Work Well With. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-choose-the-right-therapist-for-you-4842306.
Matthew Tull, P. D. (n.d.). Knowing What to Ask Your Therapist Can Help Reduce Anxiety. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/questions-for-therapist-2797498