This article offers tips on how to choose the right psychotherapist how to tell them all apart.
You’ve worn out your friends, your parents just give you unwanted advice, and you’ve decided it’s finally time to see a therapist. Good for you. Therapy will most likely help you. Significant research has been done that demonstrates that therapy helps most people.
But no one tells you how to pick a therapist.
Should they be trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy? Should they be a psychoanalyst? Should they be certified in EMDR? What is EMDR? Does it matter how many years they have been in practice? What about all of those different degrees that therapists have? What is the difference between a psychiatrist, a social worker, a psychologist, a mental health counselor, a life coach… it is all too much!
We’ll get into the alphabet soup of what all those letters mean after their names, but for now, let’s look at the most important factor in finding a therapist.
It makes sense that so many people don’t know how to begin this intimidating process of opening up to a total stranger and so they don’t bother.
Another year goes by and they sink deeper into their patterns and nothing changes. Couples typically wait out 6 long years of distress before seeking help.
Don’t let this be you – therapy can help you, just read on to learn a little more about this seemingly mysterious field and how to choose someone right for you.
For starters, before taking any therapist seriously, make sure they are legit. That means they have a graduate degree (Master’s level or higher) and hold a license to practice mental health in the state in which you live. I would be wary of anyone who claims to be a shrink of any kind without these qualifications.
That being said, the single most important factor in determining the right therapist for you has nothing to do with years of training or modality of treatment.
It is something more difficult to measure and no one can really know what it is but you.
Once you’ve determined you’re working with a professional, what is this secret single most important factor in determining the right therapist for you?
The most important factor in finding a therapist is the quality of the relationship that you feel you have with them.
So really, it’s about your comfort level with the person.
That’s right. I don’t care if you are working with Sigmund Freud himself – if you feel creeped out or uncomfortable with your therapist, regardless of their expertise or training, I say ditch them.
How do I know this? Researchers in the field have studied what accounts for “therapeutic outcome.” In other words, what factors contribute to whether you have a good or bad experience in therapy and achieve your goals.
What accounts for change in therapy?
Actually, most of the change that happens in someone’s life when they are in therapy is a result of things that happen outside of therapy.
That makes sense when you think about it – if you were to suddenly lose your spouse over the course of therapy for an unrelated issue, you’d probably get pretty depressed, regardless of what’s going on in therapy. Or, if during a time in your life when you were in therapy, you suddenly met the love of your life and began to live happily ever after with this person, you’d probably be pretty cheery regardless of what was going on with therapy.
So, factors outside of therapy have a pretty big effect on one’s life. Research on this topic of therapy outcome has shown that as much as 40% of change in therapy is accounted for by those things that happen outside of therapy.
What are the factors within therapy that affect its outcome?
Your comfort level and the relationship that you have with your therapist are the most important factors within therapy that will determine the outcome of your work together.
The research cited above demonstrated that the model or technique a therapist utilizes only accounts for about 15% of change and the client’s expectations about how much therapy will help, in other words the placebo effect, additionally accounts 15% of change.
A whopping 30% – twice as much as the model the therapist subscribes to – of change in therapy is due to the relationship that you have with your therapist.
If you don’t feel comfortable with the person in front of you, run the other way.
When you are choosing a therapist to work with, you should be interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. If you feel weirded out by anyone on your first phone call, I wouldn’t bother scheduling an appointment.
I would advise scheduling a few intakes with a few different therapists and getting a feel for each of them. Trust your gut – if you like the person,that might be a good sign they are the right person to work with! If not, for whatever reason, you have no obligation to continue working with them.
Don’t be afraid to shop around.
People make the mistake thinking that any therapist will be able to help them. It should be noted, however, that therapists are not mechanics – and our clients (you!) are not machines. Psychotherapy is built on human relationships and sometimes it’s inexplicable why some work and some don’t. The best thing you can do is trust yourself and your instincts and sign on with someone who you truly feel comfortable with.
So many people stick it out with someone who might not be helping them as much as the next person could. It’s hard to switch after you made the leap to see someone and invested your time and dollars in them. You feel like they know you even after a session or two, and you don’t want to start over. But, if you have a