Choosing a licensed psychologist or a therapist is something that must be taken seriously, especially if you’re in a “crisis” which requires immediate attention. It is critical, however, that you do your homework before making this important decision and ask questions that will assist you with the selection process. Here are a few steps that will help with finding a mental health professional that matches your needs.
The first thing you need to do prior to making your choice is to have information readily available to assist the potential therapist in evaluating your unique situation. To help you get started, think about circumstances or problems you or your family member has experienced that are impacting everyday life. By writing out your present concerns and goal(s) for treatment, you can focus on what is most important to you and your family and better communicate this when contacting potential therapists.
To help narrow your search for a therapist, consider these factors so that you can be upfront about your needs with your first contact:
- Age of the person seeking treatment. Just as there are various areas of psychotherapy, some therapists are age specific and specialize in working with geriatric, adult, teen or child clients.
- People involved in treatment. Will this be one person or should other family members or individuals be involved?
- Severity of your concerns. Do you need help immediately? Has this been a short or long-term circumstance?
- In or out of your insurance network. Do you need to see someone who accepts your health insurance or are you able to “self-pay” and go out of network?
Next, be sure to gather necessary or helpful documentation to bring to your first meeting with a therapist. This may include school records, medical diagnoses, and write-ups of any previous assessments.
When meeting with a mental health professional for the first time, one of the most important things that you should keep in mind is just how at ease you feel with them. You’ll be spending a lot of time and money and if you’re uncomfortable, it’s a sign that this may not be a good fit. It’s also important to take into consideration the surroundings (both location as well as the look and feel of the office environment).
Here are questions that can help you make an informed decision about whether it is a good fit:
- Is the therapist state licensed? This means that he or she has met the standards to practice in your state.
- What is their educational level? There are various educational levels, ranging from a licensed mental health counselor to a psychologist to a psychiatrist who prescribes medication. Make sure that the therapist’s educational level “fits” your needs.
- What is the therapist’s area of specialty and have they had success in treating people with “my problem”? Many therapists specialize in particular areas. You want the therapist to have a track record of successfully treating the problem you or a loved one may have.
- What does the therapist see as potential goals for therapy? Will this likely be a short or long term commitment?
- How much does the therapist charge and do they accept your accept insurance? Understand the costs upfront, and if you’re using insurance, verify that your insurance company will approve the costs involved.
- If there’s an emergency, what is the therapist’s availability? In some circumstances, it is important for you to choose a therapist who is on-call.
Of course, you should create your own list of questions that suit your needs for any therapist. Thorough research and evaluation will go a long way in assisting you to choose the best therapist for you or a loved one.
Still have questions? Contact the professionals at Rice Psychology Group today.
8 Responses to “What to Look for When Choosing a Therapist”
Thanks for the advice. I have been looking for a good therapist for my brother. I really like how you said that I should ask the therapist if he or she has a lot of experience with my problems. I had never thought of it that way, but that could really help someone.
Thanks Kody for writing, and we are glad our information can help you as you support your brother. Just remember that a therapist is there to help YOU (or, in this case, your brother) and not the other way around, so don’t be afraid to ask any question that helps you to decide if they are the right fit.
Great post. These are good points to keep in mind when searching for a therapist. Thanks!
Thank you for the kind words, Kristin! We do our best to keep all of our readers informed!
I really like that one of the questions that the article encourages its readers to ask any potential therapist is about what goals they want to set. You should never choose a therapist that actually wants to keep you in therapy forever and never sets goals for you to achieve. Instead, you should be choosing a therapist that will work with you and your issues to come up with goals that you can attain in order to mark personal growth.
Thank you for your response, Kyle. Yes, we agree 100% that helping set goals to overcome a problem is the most important outcome in any therapeutic session.
Considering just how serious an emergency can be when it comes to a therapy patient it really does help to know the therapist’s availability in those situations. Fortunately, even if you can’t get in touch with your usual therapist, most counseling centers have a therapist on-call that you can talk to. This can really keep you from making a mistake that you might regret later when you’re not emotionally riled up anymore.
Hi, Callum. Thank you for your comment. Yes, we agree that it’s important to always be available whenever possible for our patients. It’s something we take very seriously.