Deciding to work with a therapist is often a big decision ...
And then once the decision has made to seek help, it can be a daunting task to find a therapist that is right for you.
In this article, we identify seven steps to help you find the therapist that is more likely to meet your needs.
1. Seek a therapist that has expertise in your area of struggle.
Often therapists will become known for their work in specific areas of therapy. If you have a sense that you may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety or perhaps are struggling in your relationship, seek a therapist that specializes in these areas.
· What do you suspect is going on for you that is contributing to your distress?
2. Consider the location – will this be a barrier or an enabler to your engagement?
· If your therapist is easy to reach from work or home, are you much more likely to be able to arrive to the session feeling open and relaxed?
· Or for you, will your worry about being recognized in the neighbourhood impact your willingness to attend sessions and so therefore do you appreciate a location that is a distance from your home or work.
· Or do you travel a lot or live remotely, and therefore is it more important to you that your therapist has the flexibility to work with you via an on via an online platform, as well is in person when you are local?
· How important is access to public transport or ease of parking?
3. Think about the therapy environment – what do you need to feel at ease?
Take a moment to consider how your state of mind impacts your ability to experience the world. Just like in life, the more at ease we are in our state of mind, the more likely we are to be able to engage in the therapy experience. Thinking about this, what contributes to greater ease of mind for you? Inquire about these elements when considering your choice.
· Does it matter to you if the practice feels warm and calm vs clinical and busy?
· Is the thought of seeing others waiting in reception terrifying to you?
· Does a sense of privacy contribute to your feeling of ease or are you very comfortable with your decision to seek help?
· Would you like a space that you could quietly sit and reflect before or after your session to help you process your experiences?
4. Is the therapist open to your of thinking about the world?
It is important that we do not feel judged in therapy. If for example, you identify as a part of the LGBT community or perhaps spirituality significantly contributes to how you understand experience…is the therapist open to your viewpoint and do they have expertise in this area?
· Have a think about what is important to you and check with the therapist if they are comfortable and experienced in working with your perspective.
5. What hours do they work, what is their availability, how hard is it to book?
Once we make the decision to seek therapy, often we just want to get on with it. For therapy to be most effective it is important to be able to attend relatively regularly, particularly in the initial stages. Feel into your own schedule, what will work for you...?
· Does the therapist work when you would be free to attend sessions?
· Does the therapist have availability?
· How hard is it to secure ongoing appointments with the therapist?
· Can you book online with the therapist , particularly if your schedule is quite changeable ?
6. Recommendations – ask the right people for suggestions.
Sometimes it can be hard to admit we need support and then when we do, who do we ask for recommendation? Think carefully about whom you might ask and if you feel they can truly hold your best interests at heart.
· Maybe you found a therapist that you liked, but they were full or their practice was too far away, ask the therapist for recommendations.
· Do you have a trusted friend or professional in your network, that both knows you well, holds a similar perspective to life and ideally could speak from his or her own experience of therapy?
· Compare the recommendations you receive with what you learn online about the therapist...does this feel consistent?
7. Take some time to engage with the therapist and 'be with' your responses.
Research consistently shows that the quality of the therapeutic relationship contributes significantly to therapy success. As a therapist it is our job to set you up for this success.
Visit the therapist’s website, read their promotional material and read their blogs. Take the time to make some calls and check in with how you are feel about your alignment with your short list of therapists. Ask yourself...
· Is the therapist willing to make time to speak to you, before you book a paid appointment or are you struggling to get past the receptionist or perhaps even have the therapist return your calls?
· Does the therapist seem genuinely interested in what you are sharing?
· Do you feel like the therapist understands your distress?
· Does the therapist appear sufficiently trained and experienced to support you?
· Having connected with the therapist, do you feel a sense of hope?
Give yourself space to sit quietly, check in with your body… does all the information you have gathered feel like a good fit for you?
If you haven’t sought therapy before, it can be hard to know what you might help help you decide who is the right therapist for you. This article is designed to help make that path a little bit easier.
(Bringing mindfulness to much of her work, Sarah Sacks is a Wholebody Focusing Oriented Therapist, practicing from The Grove Counselling & Therapy in St Kilda Melbourne 03-9532-4567. Taking a holistic approach to both individual and couples counseling, Sarah works to empower her clients to find greater ease and richness in life.)