How to Shop for a Therapist
Finding the right therapeutic fit can be stressful. I’ve heard stories of therapists not calling clients back. Sometimes a client didn’t know what type of therapy they needed and found out months later that it wasn't a fit. My intention is to give you some guidance on how to find a therapist that fits your needs.
You’re the consumer. Therapists offer a service. You have every right to ask the therapist questions about their training, capabilities and areas of expertise. Questions you might ask:
As far as specific modalities, there are psychodynamic therapists, which may help you build insight. Some psychodynamic therapists may suggest meeting twice, sometimes thrice a week. It can be costly and exactly what some are looking for.
There are CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) practitioners. You focus on your thoughts, behaviors and emotions, and the effect they have on one another. You can expect to answer questions in percentages, track your behaviors and get homework. It’s more solution focused, less insight based (typically) and exactly what some people are looking for.
There are Internal Family Systems therapists. This helps explore the different “maladaptive coping skills” as parts that get developed to protect your core self. It’s effective in addressing childhood trauma, suicidality, substance abuse, etc. and is exactly what some people are looking for.
These are just a few examples of different types of therapy. I think it's safe to say that most therapists fall under the “eclectic” category - a practitioner that uses a number of interventions and modalities - because we know that one style doesn't fit everyone's needs.
I also recommend looking for red flags when interviewing therapists: does the therapist get defensive in response to your questions, refuse to offer a free consult call and/or neglect to call you back? If these red flags come up, move on. Ideally, you want a therapist who’s supportive and open with good boundaries, not someone who's neglectful, overly rigid or assumes you’ll be a good match without careful consideration.
In short, know what you need to the best of your ability, inform yourself about the different therapeutic approaches, ask questions and interview at least 3 therapists. With a little work and patience you'll find your fit. Good luck in your search!
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