How to choose a therapist

Even after you have decided to begin counseling, you are faced with the dilemma of finding the right therapist. A very important factor in successful therapy is your relationship with the therapist. We have compiled a list of guidelines to aid you in choosing a counselor and determining if your therapist and your therapy are working well. We want you to have a therapist who...

1. Is professional, experienced, and knowledgeable with legitimate credentials.

2. Seems emotionally healthy and at ease with himself/herself?…or seems to be anxious, arrogant or depressed?

3. Is warm, accepting, and non-judgmental. A sense of humor can be helpful as well.

4. Is decent, respectful, and non-condescending. A person who does not shows off, nor belittles either you or him/herself.

5. Is trained and confident in talk therapy, not just in "pill therapy." Beware of someone who suggests that medication (e.g., Prozac) as the solution to all of your problems.

6. Encourages you to explain your life situation and problems, without telling you what is wrong with you or prematurely trying to fit you into a standardized box (e.g., co-dependant, alcoholic, depressed, anxious, workaholic, or victim).

7. Listens to you in a caring, encouraging, and non-judgmental manner. Do you feel that you could eventually tell this person your deepest secrets?

8. Is active and engaged. A good therapist listens in an active way, and is responsive to your questions and needs. He/she will not always answer your questions about what to do in your life, however, because you are, after all, the only one that can direct you life. She/he talks to you intelligently and sensibly.

9. Seems to know and be comfortable with the type of counseling that is being offered you and can talk about what he/she believes brings change, healing and transformation.

10. Gently and caringly challenges you on certain of your counterproductive attitudes or behaviors. Therapists who are always "nice" and never offer different ideas or possibilities are limiting your therapy. All of us need to be confronted occasionally -- with compassion and right timing -- in order to change and grow.

11. Is effective. Even though many people “feel worse before they get better,” you should sense some progress within a month or two-- not having to wait a year or two for any results. Evaluate regularly whether your thoughts, feelings, or behavior are changing as a result of therapy. If not, talk this over with your therapist. If she/he blames the lack of progress totally on your "resistance" or lack of motivation, maybe this is not the right therapist or therapy for you.

12. Maintains clear boundaries. No social, sexual or business relationships.

13. Communicates well with parents when treating children and adolescents. A delicate balance must be reached between respecting older children and adolescents' privacy while not keeping parents in the dark about serious problems or behaviors.

14. Does not focus exclusively on your childhood or your inner life (even though we are The Place Within). Make sure that the effects of real-life pressures and present day issues are also valued and dealt with in your therapy.

15. Seems to share your basic values but does not work too hard to prove how much you are alike (e.g. often saying "I feel the same way" or "I was molested too"). It is okay to ask about the therapist's values although he/she may have appropriate and valid reasons for not telling you about some of them.

16. Is flexible about who can be part of your therapy. Even in individual therapy it may be helpful to bring your spouse, lover, friend, children, or parent with you to therapy once or at times. In couple or family therapy, are individual and sub-group needs recognized and addressed?

17. Has a clear payment and cancellation policy.

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