Last week we began looking at how to find the best therapist for you. This process can be a bit of a journey. But it is well worth the effort to find the right therapist. Someone with whom you can develop a close working relationship, and who has the knowledge and skills to be of help. A brief recap of last week's post may help:
1. Interview several therapists
2. Expect that a therapist will talk with you like a normal human being
3. Make sure to work with someone who has experience helping people who are struggling with the very thing that has caused you to seek therapy
4. Most importantly, find a therapist that you find to be warm, sincere, and capable (this type of therapist has the highest level of good outcomes)
Last week I also promised a few more tips to round out the process. Let’s dive right into these.
ONE: Do not pay too much attention to what degree the therapist has earned (LMFT, LCSW, MD, PhD). Research has shown that there is no meaningful correlation between the quality of therapy and the specific degree a therapist has earned. (I know, sad, because I have a Ph.D.).
TWO: Be certain to ask questions when interviewing a therapist. It’s fine if you want to know how many people they have worked with who struggle with anxiety, depression, trauma, oppositional teens, and so forth.
You are probably also interested in knowing how they go about helping the people with whom they work. That’s a fair question, ask away!
Perhaps you want to know whether they give advice, or do they mainly listen and help clarify issues (leaving it up to you to decide what to do at that point). Does the therapist have books/websites to recommend?
It's reasonable to ask how long it is likely to take before your goals are reached (although an exact answer to that question requires the power of a fortuneteller, a reasonable guess of some type can usually be made).
THREE: Don’t put too much emphasis on how many years a therapist has been in practice. Why? Because research shows that most therapist do not significantly improve their skills after the first five years or so after graduating.
This is not always the case, but it is the norm.
The reason why most therapists stop improving their skills over the years is that they do not engage in the process of systematic and deliberate self-evaluation. This is not a gratuitous criticism of therapists (graduate training doesn’t teach one how to perform meaningful and practical self-evaluation). If you find a therapist that does engage in continuous self-evaluation of his/her performance, and then uses that information to improve his or her skills, that's terrific. Put a star next to their name.
There you go. Honest, it is as simple as that.
Follow these guidelines and you will dramatically increase your chances of finding the best therapist for you. Just to make things easier, I have formatted the tips from today’s post, and last week’s post, into a single checklist. In case you missed it last week, I will also post again (below) the links to four major therapist directories. Until next time.