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What Should You Look For in a Therapist?

Are you considering meeting with a therapist? If so, you are not alone.

About 10% of the US population meets with a therapist at a given time, and nearly half of Americans have tried therapy at some point during their lives. Therapy can offer invaluable support if you are struggling with your mental health, self-esteem, or relationships.

However, finding the right therapist isn't always easy. It's a relatively intimate relationship, and you want to make sure you feel safe and supported during this time.

But how do you know what to look for in a therapist? What questions should you ask? As it turns out, there are a few factors to keep in mind. Let's get into them.

Personal Preferences

Therapists come from all different backgrounds and lifestyles. This is a good thing- it means there are diverse professionals who can help a wide range of people.

That said, you may have specific preferences when it comes to your potential therapist. For instance, some clients want to speak with someone with the same religious or cultural background. Other people value working with someone older than them. Additionally, some clients value meeting with a therapist who identifies as LGBTQ+.

You are allowed to have preferences when it comes to narrowing down your search! It's normal to feel comfortable with certain types of people over others. With that in mind, it's also okay if you don't have a specific preference.

Keep in mind that you're allowed to ask a potential therapist any questions during your work together. Of course, they will use personal discretion in how they choose to answer- if they answer them at all.

Professional Expertise and Experience

All therapists must undergo extensive schooling and training before working with clients. Furthermore, they need to stay active with continuing education to maintain competence in the field.

However, you should still consider inquiring about how a potential therapist treats people with conditions similar to yours. Therapists have varying specialties, and you want to make sure that yours understands you. Some good questions to ask include:

  • What kind of training do you have treating ____?

  • What should I expect during our time together?

  • Which therapeutic modality do you specialize in?

  • How will our sessions typically go?

  • What kind of progress can I realistically expect?

If someone doesn't have specific experience treating your condition, it doesn't mean you need to automatically disqualify them. That said, a good fit typically entails a combination of competence, compassion, and a feeling of safety.

It Feels Like They Speak to You

A good therapist can resemble spending time with a new friend. It might feel a bit awkward and forced at first, but you have a positive feeling and a gut reaction that you two can connect.

This feeling usually starts before the first session. For example, you might be reading their website bio, nodding your head after each statement, feeling as if each word was crafted for you to read. Or, you might get off the phone after you intake and feel a sense of being understood.

Pay attention to these sensations. They might be the telling sign that you've found a great candidate to help you!

But don't be discouraged if you don't feel an instant connection right away. Just like most relationships take time to evolve, the therapeutic alliance also develops over time.

You Feel Eager to Return

Good therapy can be challenging. You will likely examine parts of yourself that feel uncomfortable and raw. This soul-searching is tedious- the growth itself often feels painful.

But it's a good sign when you feel eager to keep coming back. Even if good therapy is challenging, it's also inspiring, motivating, and thought-provoking.

You should feel like you're learning more and more about yourself. You should also feel more comfortable making healthy, appropriate changes.

What Else Should You Look For in a Therapist?

Even if you think you've found the right fit, patience is key. Trust takes time, and it's normal to need several sessions before you feel comfortable with such vulnerability.

Sometimes, it also takes a few sessions to realize that your therapist isn't a good fit. This happens, and it doesn't mean that you have done anything wrong! It's usually worth sharing these concerns with your therapist.

In some cases, they can help resolve the problem and resume working together. In other instances, they may agree that it's best to offer you other referrals.

Therapy is unique, and it can sometimes resemble a trial-and-error process. However, working with the right professional can offer profound benefits for your emotional well-being.

At The Mental Health House, we offer support and guidance in locating people with the best clinical services. We are here for you or your loved one. Connect with us today to learn more!

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