How to Choose the Right Therapist

Posted June 8, 2021

The help of a qualified therapist can help make the stresses of difficult times and day-to-day life more bearable.

  • You want to identify a therapist with whom you are comfortable sharing your most private thoughts.
  • When looking for a therapist, consider the credentials of the professional.
  • The most important part of the decision is whether or not you can form a productive therapeutic relationship with the therapist.

After such a stressful year, many people find themselves struggling to maintain a healthy mental state. Anxiety, worry, and stress can seem like constant companions. Other stressful life events, such as divorce, loss of a job, or grief, can compound those feelings. Finding a therapist can be a helpful way to cope with uncertainty, but the process of finding someone you’re comfortable working with can be intimidating. Here are some things to consider when you choose a mental health provider.

Who Can Benefit From Therapy?

The American Psychological Association estimates that almost half the households in America include someone who sought mental health treatment in the last year. For some consumers of mental health services, the therapist helps them get through a challenging season of life. For others, seeing a therapist is part of their coping routine in good times and challenging ones. Almost everyone can benefit from professional therapy at some time in their lives.

Here are some specific circumstances in which you should reach out immediately for the help of a professional therapist. These situations may qualify as mental health emergencies.

  • You feel overwhelmed by feelings of sadness, and you feel powerless to change your circumstances.
  • You try to address your problems, but you feel they only get worse, even with support from the people you love.
  • You have trouble with activities of daily living, such as going to a job or school and doing your work.
  • You constantly worry and expect bad things to happen all the time.
  • You practice self-harm, such as cutting your skin, drinking too much, or using drugs.
  • You deliberately sabotage your relationship with families and friends by starting fights or displaying aggression.

What Should You Look For in a Therapist?

When you’re searching for a therapist, the most important thing is to find someone with whom you are comfortable sharing very personal and private information. The conversations with your therapist will be uncomfortable at times, and they may include things you’ve never shared with your closest family and friends. You should trust and respect your therapist enough to listen when they speak. If you aren’t comfortable with the therapist, you won’t be honest about your feelings and bad habits. Without those admissions, you may not be able to make the changes you want to make.

The relationship with your therapist is sometimes called the therapeutic alliance, and it involves so much more than just the connection or lack thereof between client and professional. This interaction is so vital that the American Psychological Association’s research data indicates that the therapeutic relationship matters more than the type of therapy used. Whether the approach is cognitive-behavioral or psychotherapy, the method is only as successful as the partnership.

  • The two parties must agree on what is to be achieved through therapy and how to get there.
  • The client and therapist must be able to communicate clearly.
  • The pair should genuinely like each other enough as individuals to want to work together.
  • The client should consider whether the gender of the therapist will matter to forming the therapeutic alliance. In other words, do you want to work with a male or female therapist?
  • Clients may prefer working with someone close in age to them, or they may want to find someone older or younger.
  • Clients with a sincerely held religious faith may want a therapist who shares that religion.

Though the internet is a fantastic resource for finding information on all sorts of things, it’s not always helpful for finding a therapist. Even when you have a biography and picture, which you don’t always get, it’s hard to decide whether that person is a good match for your needs. The choices get even more complex with the advent of online therapy using texting or video. Recommendations from friends and family may be a helpful place to start. However, be aware that just because a friend has a great relationship with the therapist doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll feel the same way.

How Do I Know If a Therapist Is a Qualified Professional?

The qualifications to hold a license as a therapist vary some by state. In every state, though, mental health professionals go through a licensing process that includes a background check, significant supervised practice hours, and continuing education.

A few titles for mental health professionals are more common than others.

  • LCSW stands for Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
  • LPC stands for Licensed Professional Counselor.
  • LMHC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.
  • PsyD is a Doctor of Psychology, usually a psychologist.
  • Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy.
  • In terms of mental health, MD stands for Doctor of Medicine and usually denotes a physician psychiatrist.

While it’s essential to know something about each type of professional’s qualifications, it’s probably not the best deciding factor in who you choose. As long as you know the person holds the appropriate degree and license, you know they met the requirements for education and experience and that they are bound by a code of ethics enforced by a state oversight board. The credentials can also tell you if the professional specializes in a particular kind of therapy. For example, a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, or LCDC, specializes in substance abuse therapy.

Where Can I Learn More?

At MHS, our team includes highly qualified professionals from various backgrounds. If you’re struggling with maintaining a healthy mental state, let us help you find the right professional to assist you. MHS serves people from early adolescents through the senior adult years with different kinds of therapy tailored to the population’s needs. Contact us today to schedule your assessment. You can always reach out by phone by calling (651) 358-2163. 

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