Updated: Feb 3, 2020
Originally published on www.racheltuchman.com
Finding the right therapist is a lot like finding your soul mate. You have to have a clear picture of what you want, be honest with yourself about what you need, be open to suggestions from family and friends, and be willing to try a few duds before you find the right one.
Therapy is nothing to take lightly. Just as (I hope) you would not want to settle when looking for a life partner, you do not want to settle for just any "therapist." Letters at the end of a name do not equal a qualified or knowledgeable professional and knowledge and qualifications do not equal an effective therapist.
When a person says they "give up" on finding love it's often because they've been in the wrong relationships and haven't found that special connection. We reassure them,"Don't give up on love, the right one is out there somewhere!" The same holds true for therapy.
At the end of the day though, it really comes down to chemistry. A therapist can have all the checklist items but if you don't jive, the therapy will simply not go anywhere. You have to feel that your therapist understands you. You should feel comfortable to share your personal thoughts and feelings. You should be motivated to go to sessions, feel a push to follow through with treatment recommendations, and value the relationship. This only happens if you have that "connection." When a person says they "give up" on finding love it's often because they've been in the wrong relationships and haven't found that special connection. We reassure them,"Don't give up on love, the right one is out there somewhere!" The same holds true for therapy. Don't give up on therapy. It DOES work. You've just been in the wrong offices!
Identify why you are seeking therapy
If you have a medical condition, you want to go to the doctor who specializes in that specific area of medicine so that you get the right treatment. You don't go to the foot doctor for your vision issues (don't argue, no you don't).
The same is true for a therapist.
Are you sure that you are going to a clinician who works specifically with the issues you are seeking treatment for?
Do you know what exactly it is that needs work?
If you are a victim of trauma, you should be seeing a therapist who specializes in trauma. Don't assume that because you have anxiety and depression that you should go to a therapist who treats anxiety or depression.
Are you grieving a loss? See someone who specializes in loss and bereavement.
Also, it is important that your therapist is educated about the different modalities of treatment that are out there to treat your specific issues. She/he should be open to discuss options for you.
Ask a good friend or family member if they know anyone they would recommend to you. Chances are that someone you know has used a therapist they felt positively about or they may know a therapist on a personal level who they think would be a great fit, based on your personalities. Finding that perfect match will require some networking on your part.
Now that you've got a name, does the therapist offer an initial phone consultation? Take it. Ask a million questions. Ask about their approach to therapy, how long they generally have clients in therapy, and the frequency of visits they'd recommend for you based on the information you discuss with them. Discuss insurance (if they take it) and what their expectations are of clients. This first phone call will be a lot like a "first date." You'll get all the information and "vibes" you need to know whether or not to proceed. Remember, don't be discouraged if you are not happy with the selection you've seen until now. It's not a reflection of therapy and how "it doesn't work." You just haven't found "the one" yet. Keep going, that perfect therapist is out there.
Educate yourself with an open mind
In order to be a strong advocate for yourself (and save yourself wasted time) it is extremely important that you do research about the different kinds of therapy that are out there and the issues they are used to treat. Kids respond better to behavioral/cognitive based therapies rather than hypnotherapy (not appropriate for kids). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is great for anxiety and depression (and really any issue. Yes, I'm a CBT therapist). Don't get stuck on what YOU think should be done to treat the issues. Have an open mind and get different opinions so that you can make the best decision for you or whoever you are seeking therapy for.
If you feel like therapy "doesn't work" all that means is that you haven't found the right one. Don't give up. She/he is out there.
Relationship is one of the biggest factors for success in therapy. Don't settle and definitely don't give up.