Choosing a therapist can be a tricky process if you are seeking online counseling or in-office therapy for the first time. Many clients turn to the internet to find someone they trust, but how do you really get a feel for someone until you have some sort of interaction with them, whether through a chat or email exchange, or in their office at the first session. And even then, you might still have your doubts. So how do you go about choosing a therapist that will best meet your needs, emotionally, and intellectually? In other words, how do you connect with your therapist and know they are competent all at the same time?
Lynn Bufka from the American Psychological Association states:
“It’s a very vulnerable thing to be in therapy,” says Lynn Bufka, head of the department of practice, research and policy at the American Psychological Association. “As with any health care provider – whether it’s a physician or nurse or therapist – you’re interested in finding someone who’s competent. But the question of fit becomes even more critical with a therapist, because you’re going to see that person quite regularly and you want to have a comfortable relationship.”
Many things are important to consider when looking for a good therapist. As one Chicago Tribune article points out, take into account the person’s credentials. What are they? Where did they go to school? Are the licensed in their chosen profession? This is important in that it shows a certain level of dedication to their discipline. It also shows they are up to date in their area of specialty because clinicians with active licenses are required to obtain continuing education on a regular basis.
What is the therapist’s area of expertise? Take a moment to look into what their area of specialty is. Do they meet your needs? Are they flexible in their approach? Would it vibe with what you are looking to work on? When you look at this honestly, you will get a feel for whether a therapist can truly help you with your concerns.
“You don’t have to necessarily like the therapist,” Bufka says. “It’s important to feel the therapist respects you and understands you and has the expertise to help you with what you’re seeking help for.
Do they make sure that your information will be confidential? Whether you will be receiving counseling through online counseling, distance counseling, or in the traditional in-office format, make sure that your information will be secure. Is the therapist’s office secure? Online therapists have several ways to secure your personal information – ask about this. In-office counselors also have measures they follow, such as locking the office, filing archives of sessions safely, and limiting communication with others. How well would they do this with your information?
A good idea shared in the article is to set up an initial ‘interview’ with the therapist to see if you have a good fit. If you are seeing an online therapist, send them an email to see if you can chat in Skype for a while or exchange an email explainining your needs. For an in-office session, see if the counselor will meet with you briefly before your intake session to see how you feel speaking to them. Any of these approaches might help make the process of selecting a therapist a bit easier.