How do I choose a therapist?

Choosing the right therapist can be a crucial step in your mental health journey. Here are some steps to get started, some supporting thoughts for determining what “fit” means for you,” and some ideas for next steps:

  1. Determine what type of therapist you need: There are different types of therapists with different areas of expertise. You may need a therapist who specializes in a certain area such as depression, anxiety, trauma, or relationship issues. Progress Counseling offers a variety of therapists, some who are living a recovery-oriented lifestyle, diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds and experiences, and a wide range of styles.
  2. Consider your preferences: Think about what you want in a therapist. Do you want someone who is warm and nurturing or more analytical and direct? Do you prefer someone who is the same gender as you or the opposite gender? Do you want someone who practices a certain type of therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or psychoanalytic therapy? As a client-of-therapy myself, I have found that over time I have shifted in my preferences. Some of the things that mattered a lot when I was 18 years old in therapy have become less important. Age, ideological background, affect, politics, these are things that I’ve found “showing up” in therapy for me in very different ways as my own experience, relationships, and values have evolved and shifted.
  3. Ask for recommendations: Ask friends, family members, or your primary care physician for recommendations. Sometimes finding a therapist, trying them out, and having it not work can be good — a “good therapist who isn’t a good fit” will be willing to help you find someone who is a good fit for you.
  4. Check credentials: Look for a licensed therapist with a degree in psychology, social work, counseling, or another related field. You can check their credentials and licensing information on your state’s licensing board website. One question you can ask your therapist is, “What do the letters after your name mean?” Similarly, try asking about their experience with substance use (if your concerns include drugs and alcohol), lived experience with cultural issues, “are you under supervision?”, and what trainings do you have?
  5. Conduct a phone or in-person interview: Once you have a list of potential therapists, contact them to set up an initial consultation. This can be done over the phone or in-person. During the consultation, ask about their experience, their approach to therapy, and how they would address your specific concerns. All of our therapists will offer a consultation, in whatever form you’re comfortable and available (video, phone, etc).
  6. Trust your gut: Ultimately, the most important factor in choosing a therapist is your own intuition. If you don’t feel comfortable or connected with a therapist, don’t be afraid to try someone else.

Remember that finding the right therapist can take time, but it’s worth the effort to find someone who can help you achieve your mental health goals.

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