So you have made the decision to reach out for support.
That is the scariest part done. Now you just need to find the right therapist for yourself or your loved one. This decision is incredibly important as evidence shows that the best predictor of success from counselling relies on the quality of the therapeutic relationship you are able to form with your therapist. Below you will find 5 questions to ask a potential therapist, to help you in this journey.
Finding the best fit for you can feel overwhelming. There is an unnecessary amount of complexity involved in navigating the mental health and well being landscape. Between the different funding pathways, waitlists, service pricing, decoding the difference between social workers, counsellors, psychologists, mental health nurses, holistic practitioner, paediatricians, psychiatrists and many more (these differences could be a whole other blog post in itself). Generally people begin by asking questions of friends or family, consulting their GP or with a trusty Google search. One of these ways may even be how you found this post. With the increased availability of telehealth your ability to choose between a range of suitable professionals is now better than ever.
But when you are making your decision what factors should matter most? Is it their training background, experience, gender, age, availability, a combination or something else entirely? Firstly you may find it helpful to imagine your perfect therapist and your worst nightmare therapist, make notes or discuss this with someone as it will give you a good initial guide about who you are likely to build trust with. From there begin your search using some of the resources above, even places like Facebook Community Forums have become active in linking people with personal recommendations.
Once you have a shortlist of potential services/therapists then it is time to reach out to gain some more specific details. Key questions you may find useful to ask are:
Can they describe their professional background and personal approach to therapy?
How long is the wait time for an initial appointment?
What experience do you have in working with (your presenting concern)?
What funding options/costs are associated with your service?
If you aren't the right therapist for me how would we approach that?
Feel free to contact more than one service to enable you to make an informed choice.
Generally by the second or third session you will have a good sense of whether your felt sense of trust and comfort with that individual is growing. For some this may happen rapidly within the first session, however for others trust may continue to be gradually built over a longer period of time (particularly if you have been let down by caregivers or professionals in the past). Often concerns can be directly raised with your therapist and addressed together to improve the relationship however some instances do result in the decision to transition to a new service, and that is perfectly okay.
Don't be discouraged if the first therapist you meet isn't the right fit for you. Much like finding a hairdresser or mechanic, taking your time to find the right professional for you is incredibly important. You will not hurt a therapists feelings by choosing to go in a different direction for your care, we are all different and aren't all good at the same things, but we do all want you to make good progress and are happy to support you to work with someone else if that is how you need to do it. You may also find that self help books, online programs, physical exercise or mindfulness provide a valuable support while searching for just the right fit.
Let me know how you have experienced finding the right fit for yourself and your family? Is there anything I have missed?