Talking with a therapist is a very personal experience. Past trauma is typically discussed in detail, as are present-day issues that can oftentimes be uncomfortable to air.
For these reasons it’s especially important to find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable.
However, searching online for a professional healthcare worker can be overwhelming, especially if you’re new to counseling. Finding a good match helps in the healing process, so having insight into what to look for and what kinds of questions to ask is helpful.
The first thing to check when looking for the right therapist for you is their credentials. There are popular schools out there that offer degrees in counseling but are not fully accredited, so the graduates cannot get legally licensed. As long as they don’t portray themselves as “psychologists” or licensed counselors they can work with clients on emotional and psychological issues.
Typically, they don’t have the in-depth training that licensed professionals have, nor do they meet the high standards set by licensing boards. If you want a qualified therapist who will likely be the best to work most effectively with you, your best bet is to choose someone who is licensed.
According to Verywell Mind, here’s a list of licenses to look for:
- LCSW – Licensed Clinical Social Worker
- LMFT – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
- NCC – National Certified Counselor
- LCDC – Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor
- LPC – Licensed Professional Counselor
- LMHC – Licensed Mental Health Counselor
- PsyD – Doctor of Psychology
- PhD – Doctor of Philosophy
- MD – Doctor of Medicine (physician psychiatrist)
Talk Over the Phone Before Meeting in Person
When you find a therapist online or through a referral who you feel might be a good fit for you, it’s good to ask some pertinent questions during a first phone call rather than go straight for a session. This way you can get a good feel for them and decide if a next step is an option. If it’s not, then you’ve saved both yourself and the therapist valuable time before moving things forward.
Here are some good questions to ask when you first talk with a prospective therapist:
- Are you licensed?
- How long have you been actively practicing under your license?
- What is your expertise?
- What insurance, if any, do you accept?
- What are your fees?
- How will you decide a course of therapy for me?
- My issue is —. How comfortable are you working with this particular issue?
- What do you consider successful treatment?
Be open to their answers and see how you feel not only about the information they give you, but how they answer you in general. The more you feel you can trust and click with them, the more productive your sessions are likely to be.
Questions To Ask Yourself When Choosing a Therapist
After you’ve spoken over the phone with a therapist you feel might be your best choice, HelpGuide suggests you ask yourself a few questions:
- Does it seem like the therapist genuinely cares about you and your problems?
- Do you feel as if the therapist understands you?
- Does the therapist accept you for who you are?
- Would you feel comfortable revealing personal information to this individual?
- Do you feel as if you can be honest and open with this therapist? That you don’t have to hide or pretend you’re someone that you’re not?
- Is the therapist a good listener? Does he or she listen without interrupting, criticizing, or judging? Pick up on your feelings and what you’re really saying? Make you feel heard?
Next Steps in Choosing the Right Therapist for You
Once you’ve asked friends and family for referrals, searched online, narrowed your options, talked over the phone, and asked yourself some pertinent questions, you’re ready to make a decision. You ought to have a good sense of the therapists you’ve talked to and be able to choose the one who feels the most right to you.
If, after having gone through these steps, you still don’t feel you’ve found the best choice of therapist for yourself, don’t worry. Consider calling a few who weren’t your first choices. Just might turn out that after initially talking with them, you feel more comfortable with them than the others. Either way, when you find a therapist you feel you can trust and connect with, book that appointment. Open up to them. Know that you’ve already taken big steps in working through whatever you’re struggling with and there’s hope that you’ll start feeling better soon.