Choosing a Therapist

Not every therapist makes a good match for every client. Therefore, you should make sure that you take some time to pick a person that will fit well with your needs and your personality.

Getting the names of therapists

To get the names of therapists, I recommend getting referrals from people in your life that you trust. Ask your physician, friends whom you admire or even colleagues from work whom you feel comfortable approaching. Other professionals (lawyers, accountants, hair stylists, and teachers) might also have some ideas of people that they know have benefited from a therapist who can, in turn, provide you with names.

Evaluating Therapists

Once you have the names of some therapists (I would choose at least two so that you can compare them), try to arrange to meet in person with the ones that seem most suitable for you. Suggest a half-hour meeting, as this will make it clear that you do not want the first session to be a therapy session. Use the first session as an opportunity to talk about the issues you want to work on in therapy and to ask some questions of the therapist to see how he or she thinks. Here are some great questions to ask any therapist. (In parenthesis, I've included links to my answers to these questions).

  • What brought you to the career of psychotherapy? (see Who I Am)
  • What do you believe makes people change? (see Views About Therapy)
  • What are your views about the use of prescription drugs with therapy? (see FAQ)
  • How do you know when therapy is complete? (see FAQ)
  • How does you perceive therapy to differ from a friendship? (see FAQ)

Once you have asked these questions and talked about your reasons for wanting to see a therapist, here are some things to consider. Note that it is important to pay attention to the content of the therapists answers, but also try to use the answers as a way of gauging the therapists style and whether you would like to spend time with him or her. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Did I feel a sense of trust in the answers that the therapist gave to my questions?
  • Did the therapist seem comfortable answering my questions?
  • Does the therapist seem to relate to the issues that I'm presenting?
  • Would I feel comfortable telling this therapist about personal or potentially embarrassing things in my life?
  • Did the therapist seem respectful of my values? For example, how did s/he react when I talked about my spirituality or my sexual orientation?
  • Did the therapist seem comfortable with letting me do the talking? Did s/he seem secure with hearing my personal story?
  • Did I feel safe talking to the therapist?
  • Did the therapist seem professional and reliable?

Other important variables

You might consider other factors in your decision too.

  • Do I want a male therapist or a female therapist?
  • Does the age of the therapist seem appropriate to me?
  • What type of clients does the therapist typically see?
  • Does the therapist have any particular areas of expertise?
  • Does the therapist have hours that accommodate my schedule?
  • What views does the therapist have about how therapy works?

In most of these cases, I think these variables come down to personal preference. The gender of your therapist could have interesting--and not always obvious--ramifications for your therapy. For example, a woman might think that it makes sense to choose a male therapist to confront issues that she has in forming relationships with men. This might make sense, but it might also turn out that some of her underlying issues have to do with her relationship to important women in her life. In other words, you might refrain from choosing a therapist based on what you "should" be doing and instead pick somebody that makes you feel comfortable and meets the other criteria for choosing an appropriate therapist.

You may request more information online, or to set up an initial session, call me at my office.