Finding a Therapist Who Can Help You Heal
Choosing the right therapist is very important in order for you to reap the benefits of therapy. Your therapist should be someone you trust and who makes you feel cared for. The therapist you choose should have the relevant experience to help you make the changes you are seeking.
A good therapist knows how to listen, helps you identify and understand self-defeating thoughts and behaviours, encourages you to make positive changes, and motivates you to learn and grow. As a client it is important that you participate actively in the process.
Finding the right therapist will probably take some time and work, but it’s worth the effort. The connection you have with your therapist is essential. You need someone who you can trust—someone you feel comfortable talking to about difficult subjects and sensitive information, someone who will be a partner in your recovery.
Therapy won’t be effective unless you have this bond, so take some time at the beginning to find the right person. It’s okay to shop around and to ask questions when interviewing potential therapists.
- Experience matters. One of the main reasons for seeing a therapist, rather than simply talking to a friend, is experience. Look for a therapist who is experienced in treating the problems that you have. Often, therapists have special areas of focus, such as depression or eating disorders. Experienced therapists have seen the problems you’re facing again and again, which broadens their view and gives them more insight. And for some problems, such as trauma or PTSD, seeing a specialist is absolutely essential.
- Learn about different treatment orientations. Many therapists do a blend of orientations. However, it’s a good idea to learn about the different treatment types, because that can affect your therapist’s way of relating and suggested length of treatment. Don’t hesitate to ask your therapist how they work.
- Check qualifications and credentials. Credentials aren’t everything, but if you’re paying for a qualified professional, make sure the therapist holds membership of a professional regulatory body such as PACFA, CAPA or the ACA. This ensures that your therapist is operating under a particular Code of Ethics and that they are undergoing continual training and professional development to maintain their membership with a professional body. Also check for complaints against the therapist.
- Trust your gut. Even if your therapist looks great on paper, if the connection doesn’t feel right—if you don’t trust the person or feel like they truly care—go with another choice. A good therapist will respect this choice and should never pressure you or make you feel guilty.
The first session or two of therapy is a time for mutual connection, a time for the therapist to learn about you and your issues. This is the time the therapist may ask for a mental and physical health history.
It’s also a good idea to talk to the therapist about what you hope to achieve in therapy. Together, you can set goals and benchmarks that you can use to measure your progress along the way.
Remember, your feelings as well as your thoughts are important, so if you are feeling uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to consider another therapist.
Questions to ask yourself when choosing a therapist
What’s most important in a therapist or counsellor is a sense of connection, safety, and support.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does it seem like the therapist truly 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 and sensitive information to this individual?
- Do you feel like your therapist is invested in your recovery?
- 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? Do they listen without interrupting, criticizing, or judging. Pick up on your feelings and what you’re really saying? Make you feel heard?