If you are considering seeking professional help for a mental or emotional problem, it can be very difficult to choose the right therapist. There are a variety of professionals with differing education levels and therapy approaches who can offer counseling services. It can be difficult to decide what kind of help you need and whom you should consider as a therapist. Using the following steps can help you choose the right therapist for you.
Define the Problem
This might seem like an impossible task, particularly for those people who may not know how to define their problems, but certain determinations may help you define the type of therapists to consider. Ask yourself whether your problems stem from addiction, family history, past trauma, destructive patterns of behavior, or current relationships. Defining the problem in these types terms tells you whether to consider an addiction specialist, a family therapist, a behavioral modification therapist, or a general therapist. Some therapists practice under more than one specialty and by defining the problem you may be able to narrow the search to a few qualified therapists.
Individual or Group Therapy
Consider whether you would be more comfortable with individual talk therapy or would prefer group therapy. Some people find individual talk therapy a daunting prospect that puts too much pressure on them. If you think group therapy might work, you may wish to consider joining a support group first and see if you thrive in that environment. Some people start out in group therapy and then schedule individual therapy sessions, as they become more comfortable with the idea of therapy.
Family or Marriage Therapy
If you are considering therapy involving a spouse or partner you want to look for a therapist that specializes in couples therapy. They will frequently offer individual therapy sessions to each person as well as sessions where both partners attend. If the therapy will involve family members particularly children or teens you should look for a therapist who specializes in family, adolescent, or child therapy. These specialists will usually schedule both individual and group sessions. It is particularly important to choose a specialist for children or adolescents when they will be a main part of the therapy.
Type of Therapist
Once you have defined the problem and determined the type of therapy, you can find several qualified therapists by searching the yellow pages or searching online. The resulting list of therapists and there many degrees and certifications may be confusing. Counseling or therapy can be offered by psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, or licensed professional counselors. Except for psychiatrists who are medical doctors with the ability to prescribe medication, there are minor differences in educational requirements for the other professions and picking a therapist strictly according to educational credentials is usually not the best course of action. In general, a qualified therapist should have a bachelor or masters degree in a counseling related field and should have a current state license to practice.
When trying to choose a therapist recommendations can help narrow the field. Some good sources for recommendations include a primary care physician, priest or minister, guidance counselors at schools, members of a support group, the mental health department of your local hospital, or friends and family. When obtaining recommendation and narrowing the field you should also consider whether the gender of a therapist is important. Some people are more comfortable talking to male therapists, some to female therapists.
Once you have chosen a therapist and made the first appointment, you should consider a few questions to ask the therapist. Consider whether you want a therapist with similar religious views or personal values or similar ethnic or cultural background. You can ask questions about the therapist’s experience, education, and approach to therapy. The therapist will use the first appointment to evaluate your needs and determine whether he or she can provide the right kind of help. At the same time you should be evaluating whether you are conformable with the therapist and whether you are being listened to. Therapy frequently involves an intimate connection based on safety and trust, it is essential that you feel the potential for those connections before you commit to a therapist. If after the first or second appointment you don’t feel any connection you may need to try another therapist.
Choosing a therapist can be difficult. Defining the problem, deciding what type of therapist and then getting some recommendations can help you narrow the field to a short list of qualified therapists. It may take one or two tries, but by following these steps you should be able to find the right therapist to help you deal with your problem.