When I talk to people about counseling they sometimes have stories of their own experiences with bad therapy. Or at least therapy that didn’t suit them. And I know how that is because I’ve had therapists that didn’t suit me because not every therapist is meant to suit every person. But it makes me sad when people finish their story with, “And that’s why I no longer believe in counseling.” Because I think counseling is great (obviously) and very often the problem isn’t with general therapy anymore than having a bad experience with a lousy dentist means that we ought to shun dental care all the way around.
Finding a therapist is relatively easy — you ask friends and colleagues for referrals; you ask your doctor or naturopath; you ask your insurance company; you do a Google search. But finding the right therapist is hard. How do you do it?
- Ask for a free consultation by phone or face-to-face. Not every therapist will make an appointment for you to come to the office just so you can check her out but some will so it’s worth asking. But any of them worth their salt will take a fifteen or twenty minute phone call with you so you can get a feel for who they are.
- Trust your gut. Remember that good therapy depends on the trusting, warm relationship that you build with your therapist and that she builds with you. She needs to be someone who feels safe to you. If she doesn’t, look elsewhere. (And this is incredibly personal. I loved my therapist because she was a warm but bossy person because I feel most comfortable with warm but bossy women. Someone else might have been less comfortable with the bossy and that’s ok.)
- Look for someone with training/experience in your particular issue. If there’s a local organization or agency devoted to your issue, see if they make referrals.
- Don’t be swayed by expertise into accepting a treatment modality that doesn’t feel right to you. Yes, she must be educated and licensed, absolutely. But you’ve had years of being you and you’re the expert on that. If you feel like she’s pushing a mindset or worldview or counseling philosophy that feels uncomfortable to you, talk to her about it. If you can’t resolve it, find someone else.
- Don’t give up. I know it’s hard to keep putting yourself out there. I know it’s hard to keep telling people your story. But you deserve support and counseling that works for you. Somewhere out there is the therapist who’s gonna get you to your goals, whatever they may be, you just have to find her.