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How to Find a Good Therapist

If you're looking for a good therapist, think of it like playing the dating game—not just any ho-hum person will do.

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A woman talks to her therapist

Therapy is an important part of managing a mental illness and, in fact, managing life in general for many people. But the therapeutic relationship is a very personal one and only the right therapist and patient together can make therapy work. It’s like romantic matchmaking although you might want to consider factors other than whether they like long walks on the beach.

Therapy Relationships

One of the reasons some people say that “they hate therapy” or “therapy doesn’t work” is because they have been matched with a therapist that wasn’t right for them. It’s not that the therapist was bad, necessarily; it’s just that the therapist didn’t match what the client needed at that time. Positive therapeutic relationships require:

  • trust
  • respect
  • agreement on treatment
  • understanding, compassion and empathy

And much like you can’t expect to find your Prince Charming in any-old-guy, you can’t expect to have a relationship with everything you need from just-any-therapist either.

Interviewing Therapists

This is why you need to interview a therapist before committing to them. It’s like a first date. You don’t jump from “cute hair” to engagement when dating and you shouldn’t jump from “nice chair” to therapy either.

Some questions are just background verification and others are to see if you’re a good fit. All questions, though, are designed to help you find the best therapist for you. I recommend that you ask your potential therapist questions like this:

  • Are you certified? By whom? When?
  • Where did you attend school? When?
  • What is your therapeutic philosophy?
  • What do you specialize in?
  • What is your experience with [your diagnosis]?
  • Do you practice X therapeutic technique? (This might be cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy  (DBT), or anything else you might be interested in.)
  • What is your opinion of psychiatric medication?
  • What are your therapeutic responsibilities? What do you consider your role to be?
  • What are my therapeutic responsibilities? What do you consider my role to be?
  • Anything else that matters to you.

Background Checking

And yes, I do recommend you check the background of any therapist you wish to see. Most of the time you are going to find nothing, but if your therapist has been brought up on legal charges, has had their certification yanked or hasn’t attended the school they said they did, you should know about it.

Unfortunately, I know of no site dedicated to doing this (unlike for medical doctors, of which there are many); however, a good, old-fashioned Google search will generally bring up the information you need. Many legal proceeding transcripts are available online and pop up when you search for someone and school records can often be verified via graduating class. This also gives you a chance to see if your therapist has published anything (always a good thing for a professional).

A 'Good' Therapist

As I said, what constitutes a “good” therapist varies by individual, so you can’t find one unless you assess your own needs. However, once you have assessed what you’re looking for, background-checked the therapist, and solicited their answers to the above questions, you can find yourself a therapy match made in heaven and hopefully skip the duds who wouldn’t have treated you right anyway.

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About the Author

Natasha Tracy is an award-winning writer who specializes in writing about bipolar disorder.

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