How To Choose The Best Therapist For You
You've gotten to the point where you know you need some help. You quickly type into the search engine "Therapists in (insert area)". The list is long. You start sorting by specialty, then insurance provider, then gender, then who has the most appealing office or even the best website. You name it, and I have heard of just about everything when it comes to how clients find their match. All of those strategies are perfectly valid and make for a really great place to start when narrowing down what can seem like an overwhelming list. But there's more.
How exactly does a person find THE therapist for them? You might be surprised to know that it actually has nothing to do with treatment orientation, specialization, length of treatment or anything like that. The single best predictor of positive outcomes in therapy is the relationship between the therapist and the client. This bond is what we call the "therapeutic alliance" in the therapy world.
It's really not a whole lot different than building any other relationship. In fact, it's a lot like dating. Yes, I just compared finding a therapist to dating. No, you should never attempt to date your therapist. More on boundaries in another blog post. That aside, any good relationship requires good communication, trust, vulnerability, and a willingness to work together. The therapeutic alliance is no exception. When you are looking for a therapist consider the type of person you might feel most comfortable with. For example: age, gender, race, religion, etc. Do you feel comfortable talking to someone closer to your age or do you prefer to have a different perspective of someone older or younger. Do you prefer someone who is the same gender as you or the opposite? You get the point. Ultimately you will have to make the best guess you can about the "type" of person you will feel comfortable with.
The hardest part of this whole process is that it requires you to take a healthy risk of scheduling an appointment and taking a leap of faith to see if choice number one was a good fit. Now, I am not claiming that there is only one therapist for every person. I think that there are likely MANY therapists out there who can help you reach your goals, it just may not be the first one you call. Or the second. Don't get discouraged! Back to my dating analogy. Just like most of us don't marry the first person we ever date, we also may not feel like the first therapist we try out is someone we can truly be open with. The most important thing is to be honest with yourself, and the therapist, and not to give up. Sometimes it can take multiple attempts before a client successfully develops that strong bond with a therapist. You should be looking for someone who is not only licensed, but with whom you feel connected to and comfortable being open.
At the end of the day, you know you best. You deserve to have the kind of relationship with your therapist that will foster growth and support you in the way you need to be supported. You're much more likely to benefit from therapy and get the results you desire, so it's well worth it.