How to Choose the Right Therapist

Jun 21, 2016

As a psychotherapist, I’ve come across clients who come to me after having had a negative experience with therapy in the past.  Some express having gone to a “top therapist”, so it was that much more disheartening to have had a negative therapeutic experience.  Does going to a highly recommended “top” therapist mean that you have chosen the “right” therapist for you?  Not necessarily.  Let’s explore why not and how to effectively search for the right therapist for YOUR individual needs.

It is important to consider these 5 key components when selecting a therapist:

1. The brain is a highly complex structure, and there are many different theories on how the mind operates and how to help it cope and heal.  You will notice that there are a wide range of of therapists, with varying degrees and approaches to therapy.  Before choosing therapy with any professional, ask for a phone consultation, where you can inquire about his/her therapeutic approach.  This is your opportunity to learn all about this therapist so don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as possible.  You may want to ask whether their approach is evidence-based, and how effective is it in treating the things you’re looking to work on. Does the therapist’s approach make sense to you?   Not every individual can work with a cognitive behavioral therapist, or a narrative therapist, or an art therapist, and so on.  What resonates best with you is the approach that will likely be successful in your healing.  A good therapist will provide psycho-education about the therapeutic approach that he/she uses to ensure that you have a clear picture of what the process will look like.

2. During your phone consultation or even during the first session, notice whether you feel a sense of safety with the therapistWhat does it mean to feel “safe”?  Safety in therapy refers to the ability to be vulnerable in the space with your therapist, the feeling of not being judged but rather accepted unconditionally as I amI use the word “feeling” because it is very much dependent on your own intuition.  Some therapists may verbally tell their clients that this is a safe and confidential space, but unless you feel it, it’ll be harder to trust your therapist in helping you achieve your therapeutic goals.  It is upon this trust that a solid therapeutic relationship is built, and only with this feeling of safety and trust can therapy be successful.  It’s important to note that trust is something that’s built over time, but the feeling you’re noticing is whether the therapist is providing you the safety to want to build the trust.  If you’re coming into therapy knowing that you have difficulty trusting in general, then be mindful of where these feelings of distrust are coming from. A good therapist will slowly break the walls of distrust by providing an empathic and safe environment for the client.

3.  What are the therapist’s qualifications?  Don’t forget to ask about his/her training, years in practice, and other relevant questions related to his/her competence in treating clients with similar issue(s) as yours.   There are also many excellent therapists who are new to the field, and there are advantages and disadvantages to consider when choosing between a seasoned therapist and a newer one.  For example, the cost of therapy may be lower with a less experienced therapist but you may be compromising on some additional experience.  Newer therapists are more likely to be working under closer guidance of a supervisor to ensure that the quality of your therapy is not compromised.  

4. Do you have a gender preference, or any other criteria that’s important to you?  For example, a therapist with a religious affiliation similar to yours might be something that’s important to you.  You may prefer online therapy over face to face because your circumstances make leaving your home very challenging.  While professional qualifications are important, you should not ignore other criteria when making your choice.  

5. Keep your expectations in check.  Some clients expect therapists to be the magicians who give them the magic answers to get through their challenges and move forward.  If you’re looking for this type of therapist, you’ll likely be highly disappointed when you don’t get that expected result.  If a therapist has somehow given you this message during your initial consultation, then you are being misled.  Therapy is as much (if not more) the work of the client as it is of the therapist.  It is a team effort and can only be successful if the client does his/her part of the work – no matter how amazing of a therapist you’ve found! 

RED FLAGS: There are many “therapists” out there who don’t have proper credentials to be seeing clients privately.  They present themselves as such, have professional websites, and practice under the guise of a “therapist”.  Not only is it likely that they will not help you, but someone who lacks proper training in the mental health field may actually cause you harm.  I encourage you to ask to see their qualifications if you’re unsure.  The red flag can also apply to trained therapists who take on cases that they are unqualified to treat.  An ethically minded therapist will always put the needs of the client before their own business and refer out if he/she is not able to provide the client adequate help.    

You are reading this post on the Get Help Israel directory of therapists.  All therapists listed have advanced degrees from accredited mental health institutions.  Their credentials have been verified to meet the requirements of Get Help Israel – The Israel Association of Mental Health Professionals.  When developing the profiles for the directory, we took great care to ensure that many of your questions will be addressed, such as professional qualifications, financial considerations, availability of distance counseling, languages spoken, the population they work with, and more!  You have easy access to contacting the therapist and scheduling that important initial consultation, which should hopefully answer any additional questions that you may have. 

If you need further guidance in selecting a therapist, you may contact Get Help Israel directly.