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How to find the BEST Therapist for you

Seven tips on finding the best therapist for you.

Published on February 15, 2011 by Tracey Cleantis, LMFT in Freudian Sip

Article from:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freudian-sip

The first time I went to therapy, my parents chose a psychotherapist quickly (an easier decision than which mechanic they took their car to). The way they found this nutter-butter-can-of-cashews was that my first pediatrician didn’t know what to do for my nightly all-night/every night nightmares and so he sent me to a therapist. He thought she was good because of her seemingly impressive pedigree, and let me let them tell you as they told everyone who asked, “She did therapy on the Prime Minister from Israel.” Even at ten I found this bit of information troubling and logistically dubious, as we lived in a beachside suburb in Los Angeles and the Prime Minister from Israel lived in Israel.

Here are a few examples of her wacky behavior:

1. She ate cottage cheese with her mouth open during our sessions. I feel sure that her mouth full of curds gave me more nightmares rather than less.

2. She read her mail during our sessions. While I get that my 10-year-old chatter was not very stimulating, she was getting paid to listen to me and not to read what the latest edition of Readers Digest said about how to declutter your desk. Good God, do I wish I was making this stuff up.

3. I have since learned that she asked patients for rides to the airport. She never asked me for a ride, but I was only ten and I didn’t even have a bike.

I thought, as a public service of sorts, and since I am a therapist and since I write about being in therapy, it might be a good thing if I shared some thoughts about picking a therapist—should you ever find yourself in need of one—as they can be harder to find than a good mechanic.

1. Ask friends and family

Ask friends who are in therapy if they like their therapist. If they do, find out what it is they like about them and ask your friend to ask her therapist for a list of referrals. I have never gotten a good referral that way but I have given out some good referrals because friends have asked me if my therapist knew anyone for them.

If none of your friends are in therapy or if they tell you that they don’t like their therapist and how they keep going just because they don’t want to hurt the therapist’s feelings, it is best to get a referral elsewhere. I have gotten my most of my referrals by calling institutes (Jungian/Psychodynamic/Psychoanalytic) to find out what therapists were in my area. That said, you don’t want a therapist who is convenient—you want a therapist who is good. Good and convenient do not often go hand in hand. I could have a therapist that is only five minutes from my house but I believe Igor is worth the hour drive. And, I find the 60-minute drive home to be an important time to process my feelings.

Many institutes have a service in which a clinic director will do an intake and determine what therapist in the community might be a good fit for you. That is a wonderful way to find a therapist if you don’t have a referral source.

2. Shop online

While I have never found a therapist online, I do have an ad on Therapist Finder. And I do think (in the Match.com age) it is likely the way that most will first meet their therapist is on Psychology Today’s Therapy Finder. When therapist shopping I would look for therapists who are not selling themselves but rather seem to be trying to tell you about their work and their philosophy of working with patients.

3. A picture tells a story

Take a look at therapists’ pictures on Psychology Today’s Therapist Finder. Red lights for me are therapists who seem to be using a glamour shot or whose portraits seem in any way seductive. I would also steer clear of therapists who chose for their professional portrait shots of them partaking in their favorite hobby or recreational activity. If you have any doubt based on photos, I would listen to that and maybe see if you can find someone who you could easily sit across from. I am not saying your therapist needs to look like a supermodel—just if when you look at them and you feel any concern or apprehension, I would heed that intuition.

4. Gender

I think that when choosing a therapist, almost all people have an instinctive hit on gender they would prefer to work with. For me, my default therapist choice is always male which, in fact, comes out of my relationship with my parents. I don’t think there is a right or wrong when it comes to choosing which gender you prefer to work with. However, I think it can be clinically valuable to notice which gender you absolutely wouldn’t want to work with. I would make note of that and let my therapist know about my strong feelings of “no way” when considering a certain gender for a therapist.

Read more here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freudian-sip/201102/how-find-the-best-therapist-you

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