Choosing a Therapist

It can be hard to find a good therapist. You want someone who is both compatible and has the skills and experience to help you with your specific problem. There are many different kinds of therapy, but there is no single type of therapy that works for all people, all problems, all the time. And research has also shown that the relationship between client and therapist contributes significantly to the outcome, no matter what the therapeutic approach.

So, how do you find that therapist who you will connect with, and who has the tools to help you and your family?

The first step is to gather names of potential therapists. Ask friends for recommendations. If you know a friend who has seen a therapist, ask if the experience was positive. Friends who work in mental health can recommend colleagues, but a personal friend should not serve as your therapist. Your Employee Assistance person at work, the guidance counselor at your child’s school, your doctor, your child’s pediatrician, or your minister, rabbi, priest or imam may have therapist recommendations.

No matter how highly recommended a specific therapist is, you will want to have a conversation and judge for yourself. It is usually best to have a preliminary talk with at least two potential therapists so you can compare and decide who is best for you. Be prepared to discuss in general what brings you or your family to therapy, but never feel you need to disclose more than you are comfortable with.

Important questions to ask a potential therapist include:

    What is your experience working with this issue? With this age group?

    What is your approach?

    What is your training?

    How do you involve the family?

You will want the therapist to be open with you about her/his experience, and you will want to feel comfortable that the therapist has both enough experience and the right approach. Many therapists say they have an eclectic orientation, but it is helpful to know what they mean by that.

You will also want to ask questions like:

    How long are sessions?

    How much do you charge?

    Do you take insurance?

    What is your cancellation policy?

If you have any questions or concerns, you should feel comfortable bringing them up.

Finally, choosing a therapist involves personal connection. If you feel comfortable with the therapist on the phone and think that she/he has the skills to help you, schedule an appointment and check her/him out in person. Although you will pay for the first meeting, you are not committed to continuing if you don’t choose to. You are the client; you are buying a service; you deserve a therapist who you like and who has the tools to help.

Linda Goodman Pillsbury, LCSW • 818-522-3952

California License# LCS 24069