How to choose the right psychotherapist for you

You are now ready to begin therapy and deal with issues that affect your daily functioning and your outlook on life and yourself. How do you go about finding the right person for you? I will provide some general guidelines to help you through this process.

Starting psychotherapy or counseling is a very important decision, so choosing the “right” therapist should not be taken lightly. After all, a therapist is someone you should trust with the most personal and intimate details of your life and relationships. However, choosing the right therapist can be daunting and confusing, especially if this is your first time tackling this task and you may not be familiar with the various options available.

Psychotherapy and counseling are talk therapies used in the treatment of mental and emotional problems through the use of psychological techniques and interpersonal connection. Professionals who define themselves as counselors or psychotherapists have a Master’s Degree, a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, a Doctorate or are medical specialists in psychiatry. In addition, there are other people who practice in this field. These are the coaches, such as spiritual coaches, life coaches, grief coaches, relationship coaches, etc. These people do not need to have a degree in the field of mental health and their training is usually very short and limited to very specific areas.

Which, you may ask, is best for you?

The answer depends on what you need. If you need medication for your symptoms, you’ll want to contact a nurse practitioner or psychiatrist. If you want talk therapy to help you deal with your emotional problems, learn coping skills, and gain understanding, you’ll want to contact a counselor or psychotherapist. If you’re not sure, you may want to start with a psychotherapist and go from there. Psychiatrists typically charge the highest fees. Master’s level counselors typically charge less than doctoral level therapists. Trainers charge even less. However, if you are experiencing an emotional problem, I advise you to be very careful when selecting a trainer.

Now that you have determined which category of professionals is most appropriate for your situation, you can proceed as follows:

Decide your gender preference. Do you think you would feel more comfortable with a man or a woman?

Try to get a personal reference. If you know someone you trust who is in or was in therapy and has benefited from it, you may want to ask for a referral. Your doctor can also be a reliable referral source.

Consult academic training, experience and areas of specialization.

Check for malpractice lawsuits.

Establish treatment goals. Are you interested in the relief of symptoms, problems in an intimate relationship or do you want to know more about yourself?

Now that you’ve done all the background work, it’s time to schedule your first appointment. You won’t know if there is a good fit between you and the selected therapist until he sits in his office and the two of you begin to interact with each other. Do you feel that the therapist understands what you are saying? Does he or she feel that he or she is knowledgeable, empathetic, and committed to you? Is he or she providing helpful feedback? Be prepared to find someone else if you have serious questions after your first date.

Feeling connected, understood, attuned, and emotionally safe with a therapist are the most important conditions for therapy to be effective and transformative.

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