More on choosing a therapist…

This article has some information I find very useful! It is very important to ask many questions when choosing a therapist…remember… you are the boss and are Hiring this person to work for you!

It can be difficult to choose a therapist. The times we feel our best, smartest, and most discerning will usually not be the times we find ourselves wanting to get some counseling. And when we’re not feeling our best, it can be frustrating to sift through the names and counseling styles to find someone who is understanding, experienced, and in possession of a good range of skills. The following is a procedure which should make the process easier and the results more reliable.

1. Determine what part of your problem can be helped by a therapist, and write a brief (two or three sentences) summary of this. Use What a Therapist Can Do and What a Therapist Cannot Do in the Tips section below.
2. Obtain the names of therapists from sources that you trust. These can be family members or friends, favorite teachers, school counselors, your family doctor, your pastor or rabbi, and any other person whose opinion you value. Use online referral listings too, as there is a wealth of resources available online, often with an informative blurb about how each therapist works, their fees, etc.
3. Call each of the recommended therapists: ask lots of questions and take notes. You could ask the therapist about his/her training, or about whatever else feels important to you to know (for example, does s/he have experience working with people of your ethnicity/sexual orientation, etc.) You might also ask the therapist about how s/he handles conflict: therapists who are able to repair the rupture in the relationship when there is a conflict tend to have better outcomes than their conflict-avoidant colleagues. You’re essentially acting as an employer who is giving a job interview, and you’re going to determine whether you want to hire this therapist as a consultant. Keep this idea in mind during each call.
4. Try to call several therapists before you make a decision. Compare your findings to the tips and warnings below. Does s/he return your phone call in a timely manner? Do you like the way that s/he talks to you? Do you feel relatively comfortable talking to him/her about what is going on with you? When a therapist seems warm, personable, intelligent, and knowledgeable, and doesn’t display any of the warning signs below, consider hiring that person. Once you have interviewed all the prospective therapists, take some time to think about the best choice. If you plan on using insurance, call your insurance company to be sure that the therapist you like is covered, or if that therapist will provide ‘out of network provider’ statements to you.
5. Remember that your therapist is someone you have hired.(!) It’s important to bear in mind that some problems will take longer to resolve than others, so treatment duration can vary considerably. But if you notice absolutely no change in your problem after the first couple of months, hire a different therapist.

What a Therapist Can Do:
Can be an understanding and supportive listener.
Can help you develop your ability to cope with life’s difficulties.
Can help you develop some of your life-skills: more effective communication, better problem-solving, better impulse-control, etc.
Can help you look at your problems in different ways and with a different perspective.
Can help you gain more insight into your behaviors and emotions.
May be able to help you make changes in how you function and feel. (This may require a lot of hard work on your part, though!)
Can offer advice on how to find services which s/he isn’t able to provide.

What a Therapist Cannot Do:
Cannot remove hurt feelings and unhappy events.
Cannot change other people in your life, and cannot tell you how to change them, either.
Cannot create instantaneous change in you. Personal change requires hard and dedicated work.

Here are some warning signs to watch out for. A therapist who exhibits any of these behaviors should be viewed with caution or even avoided altogether.
The therapist doesn’t seem interested in allowing you to explain your problem; s/he seems to be more interested in fulfilling an agenda.
The therapist takes a ‘one size fits all’ approach. That is, s/he seems to have a ‘rigid program’ that everybody needs to follow.
The therapist advertises or claims ‘sure cures’ or ‘spiritual transformations’.
The therapist seems bossy or confrontational in a way that makes you feel intimidated or uncomfortable.
The therapist tries to get you to commit to a set number of sessions, or tries to get you to sign a contract for a ‘program’.
The therapist claims to have some radical new way of living or looking at life, which s/he is going to teach you about.
The therapist tends to cultivate a ‘cult of personality’ or mystique around who s/he is or what s/he does.
The therapist responds to some of your questions with “You won’t be able to understand what this is all about until you’ve made enough progress.”
The therapist offers ‘insights’ about your past which don’t seem to add up — which don’t seem to be true.
***The therapist makes any kind of sexual advance towards you.
***I’ll also add if the therapist commits insurance fraud!
ex. billing for sessions you did not have or billing more than an insurance copayment amount

These last two should be followed up by reporting the therapist to your State Licensing Agency and if fraud, your insurance company!

Choosing a therapist is a “buyer beware” activity. Be picky, and take your time choosing. Go with he person you intuitively FEEL will help you…not necessarily who you THINK will help you. If your encounters with a therapist feel wrong…they almost surely are wrong, or at least the therapist is not the “best” therapist for you!

2 Responses

  1. Another list of how to Choose a Therapist is available at

  2. I have had to deal with some of these things with therapists. It is a good list!

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