For many, coming to the realization that the issues they face are more than they can handle alone can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of stigma around mental health and misconceptions about the therapeutic process that can be confusing for a lot of people. Once a person has made the decision that they would like to seek out therapy, their next task is to find a therapist that’s right for them.
It is important to remember that finding the right therapist can take time and patience. Often times it can take a few sessions before you can evaluate whether you are able to connect and trust the therapist. Without this connection or trust it will be difficult to make any sort of significant progress in your therapy.
Here are some tips on how to find the right therapist for you:
1. Make a list of names.
When you have decided that you would like to start therapy it can be beneficial to make an appointment with your family physician. Not only are you informing them of a decision that you’ve made regarding your health but often your physician has a list of therapists that they have worked with and referred other patients to in the community. Family and friends may also be a good resource for referrals as they may know others who have had personal experiences with a particular therapist.
Once you have collected a list of therapists it will be important to start finding out more information about them. What is their professional designation, are they covered by OHIP or insurance, where are they located, what are their areas of expertise, and so on. Depending on what you are looking for in a therapist will guide your research.
3. Reach out.
Once you have narrowed your list down, contact the therapist either by phone or email. Often times contacting the person by telephone can be extremely beneficial. Many clients can make an initial assessment of how comfortable they felt with the conversation, whether the therapist was sincere and helpful and whether an initial connection was made. It can also be a good way of attaining more information about the therapist’s treatment philosophy, specializations, fees and any other questions you may have.
4. The initial sessions.
Like with any new relationship it can take time to build trust and feel comfortable with a therapist. The first few sessions are often a trial for both the client and therapist to determine whether a positive working relationship can be established. Some questions to reflect on after each session that can help you determine whether the therapist is a right fit for you can include: 1) Is the therapist non-judgemental, sincere, understanding, patient, informed and in tune with my emotions? 2) Does the therapist have appropriate boundaries and has he/she discussed their limits of confidentiality? If after 3 sessions you continue to feel that the therapist is not providing you with a trusting and sympathetic environment or you feel that the relationship is just not the right fit then it may be time to move on. Try not to feel discouraged if this happens to you. Unfortunately, a lot of people have a tendency to give up on therapy after discontinuing with one therapist. Again, finding a therapist can take time but once you have found the right person the benefits can be invaluable!
Lindsay Ross, MSW RSW, is a clinical social worker in private practice in Toronto, Ontario.