Best Therapist For You
Finding a good therapist can be challenging. But even more difficult is finding a good therapist that is also the best therapist for you. In this blog post, and the one that follows, I will give tips that make this search much easier. In fact, if you follow the steps I recommend you’ll be just about guaranteed to find a therapist that works well with you.
Before moving on to discuss these steps it is important to know makes for good therapy. That is, therapy that leads to success. It turns out that this topic has been studied for many years, and the conclusion is pretty clear. The thing that best predicts whether therapy will be successful is the quality of the therapeutic relationship.
More precisely, does a client feel understood by his or her therapist? Does the client feel that the therapist genuinely cares about his/her well-being (i.e., you are not just another client to check off the list)? Does the therapist appear competent and skilled? Lastly, does the therapist have a reasonable plan for resolving the problems with which the client is struggling?
There are other factors that influence outcome, but none of them are nearly as important as the four just mentioned. With that in mind let’s look at how you can go about finding the best therapist for you.
ONE: Interview several therapists.
You can do this on the phone or with a face to face consult. If you interview therapist in person (I recommend you visit three or four therapists) most will charge for their time. This is money well spent. It could save you weeks, or months, of working with the wrong therapist.
Let each therapist with whom you meet know that you are interviewing them to see if they are someone with whom you wish to work. If this offends them, mark that therapist off your list. It should not offend anyone. If you were having a house built you would interview several architects or contractors: none would be offended. Neither should a therapist find this off putting.
After telling the therapist what concerns you are struggling with, and the goals you have, ask how they would go about finding a solution. In other words, how do they work?
Keep in mind that a therapist is really a coach. Just as someone who plays baseball might hire a batting coach to enhance their batting average. That coach would have a certain approach to helping players become better batters, and could describe the strategy to anyone who was interested. So too with therapists. Look for a response that is clear, spoken in English (not psychobabble), and makes sense.
Pay attention both to what the therapist says and how you feel as you discuss these personal matters. If you go away from the meeting thinking the therapist is someone with whom you can relate, and that his or her answers to your questions make sense, put that person on your list of finalists.
TWO: A therapist who has Experience with what matters to you.
Look for a therapist who has a lot of experience working with the issue with which you are struggling. For example, if you are interested in getting help with marital conflict look for someone who spends a great deal of time seeing couples in marriage counseling. Better yet, go to a website that shows you who, in your area, has specialized training in marriage counseling (https://www.gottman.com/couples/private-therapy/).
Avoid therapist who claim to have numerous specializations. Most therapists will have experience with half a dozen or less areas of emotional distress. If a therapist claims to specialize in ten or more areas, be cautious.
THREE: A therapist that really engages with you.
Find a therapist that talks. I know, sounds strange, but some therapists have been taught that they should seldom speak. It’s a throwback to psycho-analysis wherein the patient would do nearly all the talking and the therapist would nod, grunt, and on occasion provide an interpretation (“Ah, I see. You tell me that you were late for work again. I suspect the real meaning of that pattern of behavior is… you hate your mother…. Or your father…. Perhaps both!”). The mysterious silent types are great for classic movies, but best avoided when searching for a psychotherapist.
On the other hand, you don’t want a therapist who is a chatterbox. The focus of therapy should be on solving your concerns, not listening to stories of how your therapist’s great aunt once had a similar problem. Therapy requires an interaction, with the focus on the client.
The basic idea is your therapist needs to be willing to genuinely engage you. To do this he or she will need to talk with you, respond to your questions, offer advice and insights. The exact balance of how much talk and how much listening is helpful, well that is up to you (which is another reason to interview several therapists, so you get an up close and personal sense of their style of interacting).
So, when you want to answer the question "Who is the best mental health therapist that has an office near me?", the three steps we just covered are where you should begin. I need to mention that there are other steps you can take as well, and we will cover those next week.
If you don’t want to wait, however, to begin looking for a counselor, here are four links to some very good therapist directories that can help get you started.