August 1, 2010
Once you’re able to get a pretty good idea of the kind of therapist (or coach) who is good for you and in whom you are willing to invest some time, your entire life can take on a surprisingly good direction.
At Stake—Your Life Quality
Choosing a good therapist is as important as choosing a good career, good friend, or good partner. Although it’s easier to change therapists, the value of your time and energy warrants a thoughtful search and evaluation. The advice and direction you get could leave you stuck, or get you a life-makeover. It’s an investment that could pay you massive dividends right away and later on.
Where Do You Look?
Looking through the phone book or your insurance company is insufficient. Look at an advertising website like PsychologyToday.com, or check the therapist’s own site and make a phone call. A personal referral from someone who has been a client, or another health professional who knows of that therapist is a good lead. If you like what you see so far, then schedule a visit. Know that of course you are not obligated to follow-up with more appointments unless you feel good or hopeful about doing so.
Your therapist should be able to help you solve problems and achieve goals that are important to you. Here are some important things to look for.
You will need to meet with the therapist in person to really see how he or she measures up in these areas:
- Expertise. Needs to be good or great at the issue(s) that you present.
- Connection. You need to “get along,” and feel some kind of personal compatibility.
- Enjoyment. Therapists should enjoy, even love the work they do.
- Direct. Meaning clear and upfront about how he sees and reads you.
- Focused. Can stay on topic and not let therapy wander off course.
- Practical. Gives direction and simple, doable ways to get done what you need to do, and to learn practical ways to feel better.
- Respectful. Holds you in high regard—and shows it.
- Authentic. She appears to be a down-to-earth real person, while being professional and keeping professional boundaries.
- Nondefensive. The therapist can easily listen to complaints, not make excuses, and apologize and regroup when called for.
It would be puzzling to find a therapist from a theoretical approach who would disagree with any of these qualities. So, caveat emptor. Please note that a therapist might refer you to a specialist for an area or method that he is not familiar with, such as hypnosis, EMDR, cognitive-behavior therapy, or couples therapy. (You can always ask for more details about all of this.)
Wanting the Best For You
Right from the start, even with phone contact, a therapist should have your best interest in the highest perch of her mind. She wants the best for you even if she never meets you, or even if she loses you as a client. By the way, a therapist who cares about you, even if he hasn’t met you, would like to hear if you found someone else to your liking. It’s nice to touch base.
The Perfect Therapist
There is none of course. You don’t need a “perfect,” or even a great therapist, to make some kind of headway into your problems or goals. If a therapist is mostly good at listening and reflecting, this could be a big comfort to you, although it is unlikely that you’ll make a lot of progress with some of your big issues. You may find someone who is very good with a particular issue such as communication, managing anxiety, stress, or depression. This can be a lifesaver.
However, if you have several important areas that you want help with, and which need insight about the “big picture,” you are best served by someone who is competent
in a number of areas and possesses a variety of skills and approaches. Do some due diligence, and you’ll find one who will fit the bill.
Here are a few practical steps to find a therapist who is good for you:
1st Think seriously about the above qualities, and screen your therapist with care.
2nd Talk to a couple of people who have been to a therapist, asking what they liked and didn’t like. You can get some direction, and perhaps a referral.
3rd There is no substitute for an in-person meeting. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, and interview several therapists if you wish, which can save precious time and quite possibly impact the rest of your life. Salud.