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How to Choose a Therapist

We’re fresh into a new year, and we’ve talked about some ideas around New Year’s resolutions. For some of us, that might be considering the idea of seeing a therapist. Whether it’s your first time connecting with a professional or you’ve seen one in the past but are seeking a new fit, it is always good to know what you are looking for. Matching with a therapist is a process of itself, and can be a lot of work before you even have your first session. Before getting started many of us can have a lot of questions or concerns, getting yourself started can be overwhelming. Hopefully, this blog can give you a firm starting point, and this topic will be explored further in future posts.

Qualities to Look For

When looking for a new therapist, it is important to know what you need from them as a person. Is there a specific type of personality that suits you well? Do you want a specific archetype of person, for example someone maternal vs paternal, older or younger, a member of a marginalized community that you can relate to? What is your communication style? Is there a therapeutic goal you have in mind that would best fit a specific clinical style or focus? Although we most often talk about cognitive behavioural therapy as the type of treatment that will provide solutions, this does not fit for everyone and there are so many other options. It will require some reflection, self awareness, and research to clarify these answers which will then be very helpful in directing your search. Once you know how to direct your search you can start looking into professionals you could see. You can go to sites like PsychologyToday, Theravive, or AffordableTherapyNetwork which are search engines for professionals near you. Considering receiving services virtually can also expand your network of accessible service providers.

Barriers to Service

The next part of the process is to think about barriers that may get in the way of accessing services. These might be practical like cost and transportation or internal like a sense of stigma or fear. Many people have huge fears that if they were to see a counsellor they might have the cops at their door or their kids taken away. They might also be afraid of what people might think if they found out. These concerns are completely justified, and deserving of their own post (stay tuned!). For now, lets just start with saying that every mental health service provider is very trained and experienced in supporting people with safety planning, building capacity for self care and caregiving, as well as working through toxic or abusive situations without needing to escalate to police, hospital, or children’s aid interventions. Although it does happen that authorities are called, this is a rare event and it is more likely that you’ll find in your sessions that the therapist has an entirely different approach in mind and your concerns were not even needed. Going to therapy can be just the thing you need to give you back a personal sense of power in your life, and to learn ways of managing stressors before they escalate to a point of crisis (or bringing you back down from a crisis if you’re already there!).

Questions to Ask

Ok so you’ve overcome your fears, you’ve found a counsellor that fits your vibe and price point. Now that you’ve found the potential one, it’s time to think of some interview questions. Remember, your therapist works for you, so you need to screen them to see if they will work well with you. Don’t be afraid to ask for a consult before signing on for services so you can feel out the person and see if they feel good for you. People who are not well versed in mental health language or culture may feel intimidated and believe that they have no place to challenge an ‘expert’, but this is absolutely not the case. You are the expert when it comes to what’s best for you in your life and as a person, and a good therapist will approach your goals by offering tools collaboratively with the understanding that you are the leader when it comes to personal growth and changes.

Practical Logistic Questions

  • How long is your waitlist? How many weeks out are you typically booked?

  • What are your fees? What types of payment do you accept? How does billing to insurance work?

  • Do you offer mostly in person or virtual appointments?

  • Do you foresee any changes in position that would result in me no longer being able to receive services from you in the near future?

  • What is your cancellation policy?

Compatibility Questions

  • What are your values as a therapist?

  • What types of therapy do you use in your practice? Why did you choose those?

  • What is your general style in practice?

  • How do you ensure your services are providing therapeutic value to each client?

  • If something goes wrong or you cause harm, what would you do to try to fix it?

  • Why did you become a therapist?

  • Do you work from an anti-oppressive framework? How do you ensure you are providing a safe space for your clients?

Experience Expertise Questions

  • What is your previous experience and clinical focus?

  • What clinical frameworks do you use most?

  • What is your understanding of trauma informed practice? What does trauma mean for you? Can you provide an example of how you integrate trauma care into your practice?

  • What is your educational background? What degree do you have?

  • Which college oversees your license for practice? What’s your registration number? (Remember, psychotherapy is a protected practice and therapist is a protected title, anyone providing services will be regulated by a college who ensures they uphold the standards of practice).

  • Do you have any specific certifications? Have you completed trainings for service specialties or helping specific populations?

  • How many years of practice do you have? Do you have any lived experience that you bring to your practice?

Remember: Therapy Should Be Helpful!

If at any point during your therapeutic process you are feeling like they are not working with you towards your goals, don’t be afraid to bring this up during session. Therapists want to help, and that includes looking at their role and re-evaluating how things are going with therapy. Bringing your concerns to their attention can be really helpful, and if you still feel they are not moving you forward after this it may be time to seek other services. At the end of the day, therapy is meant to serve you so its important that you make sure it is moving you towards your goals. It might take some work, and it can get difficult at times but the investment is the best one you can make. Trust yourself, trust your process, and go get em!


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