Recently, I have been searching for a new therapist to work with. I believe that regular therapy is good for my mental health and important for my continued growth as a therapist and a person. As a client, I can empathize with the process of searching for a therapist. I can relate to the vulnerability to reveal so much about myself to another person and the courage to make changes in my life. I am grateful to have a space where I can lay my burdens down for a bit and sort through my thoughts and feelings with a trusted professional who can provide validation, perspective, and wisdom. The process of finding a therapist who is a good match can be hard. Even with my background in psychology, previous experiences in therapy, and an idea of who I am looking for, it still takes me several trials and errors to find the right fit.
How to Narrow Down the Therapist Search Options
There are some wonderful articles written about the logistics of finding a therapist (e.g., what's the difference between types of providers, how to assess the therapist's competence, and how to pay for therapy with insurance, etc.) here, here, here, and here. In this blog post, I will focus on how to find that personal fit, that "click," with a therapist who is a good match for you.
Think Of Someone Who You Admire and Trust
What qualities do they possess? Are they gentle, warm, and supportive? Do they offer tough love in a way that you can hear? Are they straight forward, assertive, and direct? Can they walk the talk of the values that you hold dear? Are they older, younger, female, queer, spiritual, humorous, warm, compassionate, challenging, authentic, grounded, energetic, outgoing, calm, or playful? Take note of these qualities as something that you might want to look for in your therapist.
Identify What You Want to Get Out of Therapy
Sometimes we look for a therapist when we are desperate for relief from whatever we are struggling with in that moment. At our very low point, it can feel like we do not have the time or the energy to be choosy about our therapist. We might think: "Anyone will do! Just make me feel better!" However, not all therapists are alike. Each mental health professional offers a unique therapeutic experience depending on their personalities, identities, trainings, backgrounds, and philosophies. Finding that good fit is a huge part of what makes therapy "work" and is well worth the time and energy investment. You will get more out of therapy in the long run if you work with someone who is a good fit. Take some time to reflect on your goals for therapy will help you articulate your needs to potential therapists and help you identify the person who has the expertise to help you achieve your goals.
Be Open To Surprise
Finding a therapist can be a bit like dating. I am not suggesting that there is romance involved in your relationship with your therapist, but the search process can be similar. You are looking to establish relationship with someone that you can trust and be vulnerable with. This person needs to fit certain criteria that are important to you (e.g., expertise, availability, cost, personality, etc.). And just like dating, you may be surprised by who could be a good fit for you. Give someone a chance who you may not have considered before. They might just offer what you need.
Be Patient With the Process
Finding a therapist is a journey. It will take time to search through all of your options, meet with some of your top choices, make a decision to move forward with one person, establish a trusting relationship, and finally start to make some progress toward your goals. I wish, both as a client and a therapist, that the process could be sped up. Be patient with yourself. If possible, start to look for a therapist at the first sign of distress rather than waiting until the problem has grown to a crisis.
Trust Your Gut
When I first met my therapist of four years, there was an immediate positive gut reaction. It was clear that I liked her and felt at ease with her right away. There was something about her that I was drawn to and felt connected with, but I couldn't put words to it. My gut reaction turned out to be right. I got so much out of our work together. I am so grateful to have found her and to have listened to my instincts. When you find that person who is a good fit, you will know deep down in your gut, in your inner wisdom, that this is it. Trust your instincts.
Say Goodbye When You Need To
As a therapist, I don't take it personally when potential clients do not come back after our initial appointment or tell me directly that I am not a good fit for them. I care deeply that my clients chose to work with me because I am a good fit for them personally and financially. If the therapist you contacted or met with is not quite who you are looking for, say goodbye (in a nice way) and move on with your search.
Ready to Find Your Therapist?
You can start with a therapist search engine like Psychology Today. There, you can search for a therapist by your zip code, health insurance provider, population they work with, areas of expertise, language, gender, etc. In the search results, you can browse through photos and bios of therapists who match your criteria. This can be a helpful way to narrow down the options available in most areas.
I am a psychologist with a counseling office in Ballard. If you are in the Seattle area and are interested in working with one of our clinicians, we would love to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to see if we are a good fit. We offer both online counseling and in-person mental health services. We help individuals and couples in the Ballard neighborhood with a wide range of mental health concerns. We look forward to hearing from you.
We created this blog to share information about living a healthy, happy, and fulfilling life. We are constantly learning new things and making mistakes along the way. This blog is our way of chronicling our discoveries, musing, and lessons learned as people and professionals. We invite you to come along on our journey of self reflection, discovery, and thriving with challenges. We also hope to exchange wisdom and enlightenment from you, our readers.
The information provided in this blog is not a substitute for professional mental health treatment.