How To Decide If A Therapist Is Right For You

Searching for a Therapist on your computer can be overwhelming as there are many in your area. Reading each Therapist’s profile on their website may be a challenge as it may contain too much information regarding their expertise, education, skills, and techniques.

Almost half of all South Africans will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives. Despite their pain, most people will not seek help from a Therapist, and the reasons can include finances or the fear of being stigmatized. Some people simply find the process of locating a Therapist too intimidating.

Some Therapists may be comfortable talking with you over the phone, providing a more personal opportunity to ask questions about the process. Although such conversations can be very valuable, unless you know what you are looking for, it may not be obvious what to ask.

Whatever the reason for seeking care, you deserve to find a Therapist who fits you. Here are some questions to ask to help you find the right Therapist.

1. What is the Therapist’s general approach to clients?

Different Therapists approach the therapeutic relationship in different ways. Some are very active in sessions, while others take a more passive, non-directive role. So it is very important if the Therapists approach will fit your needs. Cognitive-behaviour Therapists (CBT) for instance will tend to be goal-directed, active, and collaborative. The first few sessions will help you articulate your personal goals for treatment, with the purpose of arriving at a set of objectives that you will work on together. You will do the majority of the work yourself, while the Therapist will be an energetic guide, suggesting techniques, exercises, and even homework assignments. Person-centered Therapists will generally avoid offering techniques, tools and assignments, instead favoring an approach that will help you find solutions to your own problems from within. Neither approach is right or wrong, it is what is compatible with you and what you are seeking.

2. Do you find the Therapist trustworthy and likable?

Therapy is a relationship. It is very important the Therapist is someone you can trust, respect, and even like. Therapy isn’t easy or always enjoyable. It often requires facing painful difficulties and life patterns. It is essential that the person walking with you on your Therapy journey is someone you respect and you feel “gets” you. It is also important that Therapists have appropriate boundaries. Therapy is not the same as friendship, and it certainly should not feel like a romantic relationship. It is a professional alliance with the express goal of helping you change your life for the better.

It can be difficult to see from an online profile or even an initial session whether a profitable working relationship could develop. It’s often useful to think of the first few sessions as a mutual assessment. The important thing is for you to find a Therapist who fits your needs at this point in life.

3. Does the Therapist have expertise working with problems like yours?

Like medical doctors, Therapists have areas of expertise. All Therapists are qualified to treat a wide variety of clients and problems, but some Therapists do specialize in a certain field. Most Therapists have strong skills in depression, anxiety, and stress, but problems like trauma, grief, marital conflict, and work-related issues are more specialized. If in doubt, ask your Therapist if they have experience with problems that are similar to yours.

4. How available is the Therapist?

Certain problems require more frequent therapy meetings than others, and some people may value a higher level of availability in their Therapist than other people. Clients rarely consider this factor when choosing their Therapist. Some Therapists that work in private practices may not be able to help with spontaneous calls or set up extra meetings, but others who work in large clinics and offer crisis hotlines may be able to assist you more.

5. Do you think this Therapist has the potential to provide the help you are looking for?

Although there is no “quick fix” for the difficulties people face, it is possible to feel some relief after only a single session of Therapy. Nonetheless, during the first few sessions, it is important to ask yourself whether you believe that there is at least a potential that this Therapist will be helpful to you. Many Therapists make it a habit during the first few sessions to ask clients for frequent feedback about how they think therapy is going. It is perfectly appropriate to express your opinions about what is and isn’t working. There’s never an obligation to continue a Therapy process that you feel isn’t helpful. Therapy is about you, and not about the Therapist.