After a recent post about my mental health journey, a friend asked me a very good question. “How do you choose a therapist?”
Man, do I wish I had a magic wand, secret recipe or scientific method to give her a good answer… but I don’t.
All I could offer was my personal experience. I bet there are better ways or at least more efficient ways. But here are my top 10 tips for finding a counselor or therapist.
First and foremost, I think EVERYONE could benefit from a few good therapy sessions. It’s really just an educated person with new ideas to give you a different perspective, with your complete and best intentions at heart. They don’t have any agenda of their own (unlike your mom) and they don’t have any biases (unlike your best friend). They just want you to be the best ‘you’ possible. I have had experiences with many counselors and therapists (more than a dozen). Some I have had deep connections with and some I didn’t like at all. However, they all wanted the best for me and were genuine, kind people.
So, Tip #1, Trust the reason you are going. You know yourself best. You know the reason you are going to talk with someone. Your reason is valid. You are worth this time and the investment in yourself. It is right and good for you to do this.
Tip #2- Be selfish with your time. This is all about you, bettering you. You are allowed to make this whole experience about yourself. You get to lead the discussion, you get to dive in where you need. You should be thinking about and working through the issues/questions/distractions/life-crap that you most want to. Don’t think about what your partner, children, family and friends might want you to do, go for you.
Tip #3- Know what makes you comfortable. You are about to reveal a lot about yourself to this person, you need to be able to open up to them. Decide what attributes might be important to you to develop a relationship. For me, some of the things I wanted when looking for my current therapist were a woman who had younger children. These are important things in my life and I wanted someone who was able to easily relate to my life situation.
Tip #4- Check the qualifications. Therapists and counselors come with a wide variety of educational backgrounds as well as years of experience and specialties. Do you want someone who has extra knowledge of particular issues, someone who is also able to prescribe medications, group settings or one-on-one? Master in Social Work, Clinical Therapist, Psychologist, Psychiatrist. Do some research on the people you might be seeing. This may or may not be important to you, but you should know what you’re getting for the price you’re paying.
Tip #5- How will you pay for this? Quality therapy isn’t cheap. Check with your insurance and see what they will cover. Sometimes group therapy settings are more economically efficent. Some work places offer a few free sessions with therapists. Also, check directly with the organization. There are many grants and payment assistance programs that can help you get your therapy needs met. Cost shouldn’t hinder you, but the reality is, it often does. Please, keep asking questions and looking for help!
Tip #6- Ask a trusted professional for their suggestions, not just friends and family. Your co-worker might have a great therapist for them, but that might not be a great person for you. If you are starting from scratch in your search for a therapist, I suggest asking your physicians, nurses and practitioners. They often have worked with mental health professionals in your area and might have some suggestions. Other people who might have suggestions are pastors and religious leaders, and school professionals. Google can help too. Don’t limit yourself, do the research.
Tip #7- Come prepared to your first appointment. They will have lots of questions for you, but come with your own too. Or if not questions, your expectations. Be realistic. Be ready. During my first appointment, I told my therapist that I didn’t want to be her friend. I had a previous therapist that I felt I became too close to on a personal level and then the therapy stopped being effective for me. It was important for me, that I verbalized my expectations.
Tip #8- Don’t settle. There are LOTS and LOTS of mental health professionals out there. If you meet someone and you just don’t hit it off, or you don’t feel comfortable, don’t schedule another appointment. Remember, this is your time. You are paying for a service. You don’t need to justify their feelings if it isn’t right for you. With that, give them a decent opportunity if you are on the fence. Sometimes, you might need more than one session to decide if they are “the one.”
Tip #9- Always be completely honest. If you can’t be honest, this isn’t the right person for you. Hiding feelings, emotions, thoughts and struggles from your therapist will not help you. You need to give it all up. Put in the effort to get the desired results. This isn’t an easy thing, I know. But keep trying and working on it. You might have a lot of layers to get through, but you will only be successful if you are honest and truthful. This person is not judging you. They only want to help.
Tip #10- This is the most important, TRUST YOUR GUT! If you have a strong feeling that it’s a good match, go with that. If you think it isn’t right, then go with that. Your body sends you messages, listen to them. You will only benefit from therapy and counseling if you truly want to. Go with what your body, mind and heart are telling you.
Please remember, this is all just my personal opinion based on my personal exeriences. I do truely and whole-heartedly believe we all could benefit from having someone to talk to. If you have specific questions for me, please reach out! Find me on facebook at Stammeyer Farmstead or email at Stammeyer5@gmail.com