You’re starting to realize that it is a good idea to go to counseling. Congrats! Therapy is for everyone! But now, you have more questions. How do I find a psychologist/therapist/counselor I trust? What should I look for in a professional? What are considered red flags? You want this process to be smooth and successful, especially because you are spending your hard-earned time and money into making this investment in your health. So, where do you start?
Here is a list of five essential traits to look for in a counselor.
1. Make sure you see a specialist. If you have the flu, would you make an appointment with a plastic surgeon? No! Make sure that you research clinicians who specializes in your treatment area. Not sure what type of therapist you need? Starting with a simple google search of “counselors near me” or “therapists near me” will bring up a few options. You can also look for counselors using Psychology Today, Good Therapy, (or another counseling directory) and search in your area. Read a few profiles to get a feel for the types of presenting problems the clinician treats. Make a “hard no” list, then go from there.
What if the therapist you find is a generalist? Well, yes, they may be able to help you resolve your concerns. But I know that if I am looking for someone to help me with a problem, I will seek out the person who specializes in that area. Every. Single. Time.
2. Make sure you like your counselor! Look, counseling is hard. Most likely, you will be revealing information that is hard to talk about – information that is painful and maybe even shameful. Can you imagine trying to open up to someone you don’t like or trust? Ask for a short consultation (either by phone or in person) to get a feel for your therapist. Are you looking for someone who is laid back? Someone who is warm and caring? Someone who is straightforward and no-nonsense? Research consistently shows that a strong, collaborative therapeutic relationship is the most important factor in therapy success. Make sure you and your therapist are a good fit. Find a therapist who you feel comfortable with and with whom you can build trust.
3. Make sure your therapist can help explain your concerns and make a plan of action with you. Second to a strong therapeutic alliance, therapy success also depends on your therapist’s ability to effectively explain why you are in distress. It makes sense that you will want to understand why you are feeling what you are feeling. Ideally, the explanation needs to be based on best practices, as well as individualized to your specific situation. Although you may not be aware of best practice in the field, it is important that you feel comfortable with the explanation given. (Although you may not LIKE it, the explanation needs to make sense given your circumstances). Make sure that your counselor develops a treatment plan with you. This plan will be something that will also make sense to you, and will help you with a roadmap for therapy in the future.
4. Your therapist MUST be culturally competent. Cultural competency is essential to the therapy. What is cultural competency, you may ask? You want to make sure that your therapist is aware, respectful, and responsive to your cultural differences and the cultural differences of others. Does this mean that your psychologist must be an expert on every single culture? Well, not exactly. But a therapist must seek to build an understanding, be open to different perspectives, and be aware of how cultural differences impact the both of you when working together. This is about more than “respecting” someone else’s culture. This also involves the active, intentional ability to have knowledge and become informed of culturally diverse groups. Your therapist must have the skills to communicate appropriately, and be sensitive to bias and differences they may hold.
5. Your counselor should be flexible. A good therapist will not use a “one size fits all” approach to treatment. Of course, there are certain problems that are best treated using specific methods. However, a flexible therapist will take into account your specific circumstances and adjust as needed. Your therapist should be able to adapt treatment when progress is made, if you are feeling worse, or if a treatment approach is not working. Your therapist should be willing to be “wrong” and modify their plan.
You are equipped now to start on your quest to find YOUR therapist, so you can make bold, powerful life changes!
Let me know, what traits are important for you when finding a therapist?
Wanna give therapy a go? Schedule your free consultation today!