4 min read

How to Choose the Right Therapist

Picking the wrong therapist is like marrying the wrong partner. You wonder if you are the issue because this was supposed to be going better. Despite all the red flags screaming at you that this is not right, you keep trying to make it work.
How to Choose the Right Therapist, man going through therapy session with wrong therapist
Image by Nik Shuliahin on Upsplash.com

Picking the wrong therapist is like marrying the wrong partner.

You feel a sense of commitment even when things are not going well.

You wonder if you are the issue because this was supposed to be going better.

Despite all the red flags screaming at you that this is not right, you keep trying to make it work.

Therapy should not feel like a power struggle or like swimming upstream continuously. The right therapist builds a level of trust and support. The right therapist will challenge your unhelpful thoughts and behaviors but do so with empathy, kindness, and patience.

Signs you have the wrong therapist

Many who decide that they want to start therapy don’t really know what they want or what they should look for. Like throwing a dart in the dark, they hope or expect to fall on the right therapist.

Therapists are humans.

They have their own personality, communication styles, and areas of expertise. Just like with finding a life partner, you won’t instantly click with every therapist you meet.

signs you have the wrong therapist, person upset on couch
Image by Annie Spratt on Upsplash.com

Here are some quick signs you have the wrong therapist

- You don’t feel safe in their presence, whether that is physically or emotionally.

- You don’t feel comfortable or trust them, meaning you aren’t able to open up at all

- You don’t feel empathy, but overly judged.

- They are oversharing their own issues or sharing things that make you feel uncomfortable

- You feel like they aren’t present or they don't give you their full attention during the sessions

Why The Right Therapist Matters

Sticking with the wrong therapist means not making as much progress. As you won’t be able to be vulnerable, the therapy remains stagnant.

It will be a waste of your time and money. Session after session will go by without much difference. You will find yourself watching the clock during the sessions wanting them to be over.

If you don’t have the right therapist currently, you can always change.

Don’t get stuck in the sunk cost fallacy. This is the idea that we must continue down a certain path or endeavor if we have invested time, effort, or money into it, whether or not the current costs outweigh the benefits.

Finding a new therapist who is right for you will let you progress a lot further than pushing against the resistance of the wrong therapist.

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How to Pick the Right Therapist

Clarify and Understand Your Needs

Begin your search by identifying why you want a therapist. What are your specific needs and goals? Do you have symptoms that you would like addressed? Do you suspect you have a mental health disorder? Understanding your needs can help you find the right therapist who specializes in those areas.

Research Different Therapeutic Treatments

There are many different types of therapeutic treatments. Research the different types of therapy to determine which one suits you best or gives you a better idea of what to look for.

Evaluate Credentials and Specialties

When you have chosen a specific therapeutic treatment, then you want to search for therapists who can provide that specialty. Ensure that the therapists have the proper credentials and certifications.

Read Reviews or Rely on Word of Mouth

Online reviews from previous clients or having someone you know directly recommend a particular therapist can offer in-depth insights. Reviews can offer a sneak peek into the therapist’s effectiveness and rapport building. Negative reviews can highlight any potential issues.

In-person or Online Accessibility

Decide whether you would prefer in-person or online sessions. If you are looking for in-person sessions, you need to look for therapists in your area. This limits the possibilities based on your location. You may not have access to some treatment types.

Online sessions offer more flexibility with your schedule and allow you to have a wider search for therapists for the specialty you want.

Ensure that the therapist can offer sessions that also match your availability. Some therapists may be fully booked and may not accept new clients.

Consider Cultural Background

Finding a therapist that understands your cultural background can be important. If you are living abroad, you may want to search for a therapist whose native language is the same as yours.

A therapist's personality, communication style, and expertise matter more than their cultural alignment, in my opinion. However, if you have many choices of therapists, this criterion can narrow down the selection.

Initial Consultation

Many therapists offer initial consultations or phone calls. Use these as an opportunity to discuss your concerns with the therapist and get a feel of the therapist’s communication style. Trust your gut instinct. If you don’t feel comfortable with them, try another.

Finalize your Choice

Once you have narrowed down which therapeutic practice suits your needs, you need to pick out the right therapist for you. You will respond better to a therapist who matches your preferred communication style, expertise, and personality.

Avoid these Pitfalls

- Having expectations that are too high and no therapist is good enough

- “Running away” or switching therapists whenever one challenges you

- Thinking that wrong therapist for you = bad therapist.

Yes, there are some bad therapists out there (as there are in any profession). Often, it is a personality clash or communication style that you don't respond well to. Others may flourish with that particular style.

The right therapist for you will make you feel comfortable. There should be a level of trust and empathy. A good therapist won’t be overly judgmental, but they should challenge you to see things differently from time to time. Therapy should help you discover and understand yourself better, as well as teach you healthy coping skills. A good therapist will understand if you are not feeling a therapeutic connection and you wish to change to a different therapist. They will do what it takes to facilitate the transition for you.

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