Nearly half of all households in the U.S. report having had someone seek help for mental illness during the past year, according to the American Psychological Association. You may find yourself among those who would benefit from therapy. But how do you find a good therapist?
I’ve been in and out of counseling for over 10 years. I’ve met two great therapists and wasted time and money on a half dozen. There are four things I look for in a great therapist.
A specialist concerning your issue.
The first time I went to a therapist, I found one closest to home. I had no idea what to look for in a therapist and no idea what a great one could provide. Some therapists hang out their shingle and pretend that they can effectively treat anyone. That’s not true.
Too many therapists want to walk clients back through their childhood and keep them there blaming their parents for all of their problems.
Discovering the root of your problem is important, but at some point you have to be able to move beyond the causes. Find someone who will help identify your problems and help develop strategies to move beyond them.
An empathetic listener.
You would think that all therapists are empathetic. I had a friend whose therapist dozed off while she was talking. What do you think that did for her self esteem? I’ve had therapists look at me through hollow eyes, tired and uncaring. Others are most concerned with how many clients they can shuffle through the office.
Find a therapist who genuinely cares about people. A good counselor doesn’t own or enable your problems, but will focus on how you deal with feelings and challenging issues.
Not critical or judgmental.
Your counselor should help you define your values and beliefs. They will not dictate how you should think, feel and react. I’ve had therapists who want to put me in their box, analyze my life from their belief paradigm and force their opinions on me. A good therapist offers guidance, not advice.
Integrity – the most important factor.
You have to be able to trust your counselor. If she tells you about interesting or outlandish patients, she may tell your story to others. HIPPA laws be damned. I’ve heard it happen.
Check the reputation of your therapist by looking for online reviews or get a referral from someone you know.
American Psychological Association