Your success in therapy is greatly determined by the relationship you build with your therapist. Education, knowledge, theoretical orientation and years in practice are all very important aspects to choosing a therapist, however, the most important is purely relational.
Do you feel like you can open up to him or her? Do you feel like you’re really being heard?
The best thing you can do when researching therapists is to give those you are interested in a call and talk with them over the phone. This initial consultation is a great time to get to know the therapist before making the commitment to pay for a session. I always recommend speaking with at least three different therapists and if possible, meeting with them each for a consultation.
I’ve heard so many stories where clients have made the courageous step to reach out, but fell into a therapeutic relationship that wasn’t the best for them and unfortunately they called off therapy for a much longer time; interfering with their ability to get to the resolution of why they sought therapy in the first place.
Here are some great questions to ask yourself prior to speaking with a therapist:
Why am I seeking the help of a professional at this point in my life?
More specifically, what do you feel is causing your discomfort, stress or problems within different areas of your life.
Sometimes there is something very apparent that is creating unhappiness or overwhelm and other times its more subtle and difficult to identify. If you take a few minutes and just jot down the areas in your life you’d like to change you’ll have a clearer picture of what might be causing your uncomfortableness.
What do I hope to gain out of the process?
There are a ton of benefits, but if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for you might miss out on a therapist that is specialized in your area of interest. Looking forward into the future to see where you would like to be is a great exercise I use in therapy all the time.
In fact, a lot of times we’re so overcome by the present that its difficult to see through the chaos and find a more desirable way of life. It’s ok to run with a fantasy to start and then from there create a vision that feels more realistic. The point is to set some intention for the process and this way you’ll be more equipped to judge the journey.
Who will be attending the sessions?
Are you seeking therapy for yourself, as a way to deepen your personal insight and restore emotional balance? Or are you looking for a family member? Maybe you’re hoping to convince your partner or spouse to join you. Either way, this is important to think about so you can identify the best therapist for your current situation.
How do you plan to pay for the sessions?
This is a BIG one. Do you want to use insurance? If so, do you want a therapist in network or are you open to someone out of network (see my fees and insurance here)? Do you have a flex spending account that you can use, or maybe you’re just wanting to pay out of pocket. These are all are great options, you just have to know in advance because not all therapist accommodate every payment method.
If you are looking for someone in network, my best suggestion is to call your insurance provider or visit their website and get the list of their in-network therapists. From here, google search them or call those closest to you. It always helps when therapists have websites but unfortunately, not all of them do.
There are also other therapy sites such as www.psychologytoday.com and www.goodtherapy.org that list therapists by zip code. Within different profiles you can read about their types of payment methods and see a description of their services.
Have you ever been in therapy before?
Is this your first time to work with a therapist? If not, when did you see a therapist and what specifically do you remember about your experience?
Did you enjoy it? Did you see any benefits or were your forced to attend? Maybe you only went a few times and then discontinued your sessions… Either way, its good to be clear on why it either did or didn’t work out for you. Spend a little time writing about your experience (if you have one). I always ask clients this question as a way to help the client (and myself) get clear about possible expectations of the process.
It’s important to remember that there are A LOT of good therapists out there but not everyone is the right fit for you.
Are you willing to do the work?
The ‘work’ of therapy is found mostly in showing up and being open to the process. My approach is not one-size-fits-all and I don’t give out assignments to complete before the next session (usually, although there might be some exceptions).
The only other work I encourage clients to do is completely optional but definitely a transformative tool that most of my clients do grow to enjoy and find necessary. It’s simple, doesn’t require much and can be utilized at any time of day… Journaling. Putting pen to paper or typing out the thoughts that fly through your mind acts as a way to verbally process, practice curiosity in your life and take on an objective perspective; one that allows you to see how you feel, understand it and then choose how to respond.