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Why Shop for a Therapist? Questions to ask before deciding on a therapist
July 19,2019 by

When it’s time to find a psychotherapist, making certain that you find a good fit is essential. That’s why it’s good to shop.  

Here are things to consider.

That their office is convenient, or they have impressive credentials are not good reasons.

Ask people you trust who are in therapy for referrals from their therapist. Their therapist may have good recommendations. This is not always the case, which is why it’s important to shop.

I remember my first experiences as a patient in therapy. I was in college aspiring to be a psychologist, maybe even a therapist. My first therapist was highly recommended.

The therapist had a stunning office in his apartment. He was young, handsome and obviously successful. He was what I wanted to be. I never felt comfortable talking to him. Everything about the him and his office was intimidating.  I could never be open with him.

My second therapist, was just the opposite. His office was professional but not pretentious. And he was as ordinary as could be. I felt comfortable with him, not at all embarrass to share my personal thoughts and feelings. That’s what you need, someone you can work with because therapy is emotional work.

The most important thing about psychotherapy is having an excellent patient-therapist relationship. That’s why it good to shop. Talk to a few therapists to see if you can find someone you feel you can work with.

Here’s a few suggestions:

When therapist shopping, be as open as possible about why you are considering therapy. How the therapist responds will be your best indication as to whether they can help you.

It’s not about liking the therapist. You may not like it that they ask challenging, or personal questions. It’s about whether you think s/he can help you.  

Effective therapy is not about making you feel good, nor about solving your problems. It is about helping you address the issues in your life, and how you deal with your emotions. Someone who will attempt to solve your problems and make you feel good is likely to create dependency problems for you. That’s not good therapy.

Thoughts to consider. How did it feel speaking with the therapist? Did you feel sufficiently comfortable enough to speak openly? Did they appear down to earth. You don’t want a therapist who seems aloof, distant or makes you feel like they know it all. These are not for you.

Be prepared to ask the therapist questions.

Here’s a few possible questions you may consider asking. You don’t have to ask them all.

Ask if the therapist believes s/he can help you, and how. You don’t want a therapist who tries to sell themselves. You want someone who will tell you about their approach and why they think it can help you. You don’t want or need an academic theoretical presentation.

A good therapist can explain how they can help, what their approach is and how it can help. If it doesn’t make sense to you, keep shopping. Don’t worry about hurting their feelings. If that’s one of your concerns, ask the therapist for help.

I, professionally speaking, don’t believe the gender of the therapist makes much of a difference. However, if you have strong feelings about it; share them with the therapist. How they respond will tell you what you need to know about choosing them or not.

It’s okay to ask them about their training and experience. Don’t expect a resume. You just want to make sure they were professionally trained. Experience is important.

Does the therapist participate in peer counseling? It is important that they do. Every therapist needs a place where they can review their cases with their colleagues, to get suggestions, learn how others approach similar issues and avoid unnecessary blind spots. No therapist works well with everybody.

After sharing why you’re looking for therapy you can ask what might the therapist find challenging about trying to helping you. How responsive and open the therapist is may indicate if you will have the necessary give and take between you that’s required.

All therapist makes errors from time to time. Hopefully not major ones, but at times s/he might  say something that hurt your feelings, or say something offensive. It’s important that they can hear your feedback and admit their errors to you. 
I hope this is helpful. Good luck in your search.


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