How to Choose a Therapist
AND OTHER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED
ABOUT STARTING YOUR PSYCHOTHERAPY
John M. Grohol, Psy.D.
Originally written: June 17, 1995
Last updated: July 28, 2004
So often I’ve been asked, “So how does one choose a good therapist?” After all, nobody wants to put their intensely personal emotional problems into the hands of an inexperienced, ineffective, or useless practitioner. The below guidelines will offer suggestions you may want to follow in choosing your next therapist. By the way, while I was at one time a therapist in practice, I have also been in my own therapy. This article was written with both experiences in mind.
First and foremost, you must find a therapist you feel comfortable with. Therapy is not an easy process and your therapist is not there to be your friend. Having said that, however, you can certainly choose a therapist whom you feel respects your individuality, opinions, and self. You must be able to trust your therapist 100% and if you cannot and feel like you have to lie to your therapist or withhold important information, you are not going to get any real help. You must also feel, in some respects and at some point in therapy, that actually going to your therapist is helping you. If you do not feel relief from your emotional problems, you may not be getting the best treatment available. Look for these types of warning signs as reasons to think about choosing another therapist if you are already in therapy, or signs to look out for during your initial few sessions with a new therapist.
Second, you should seek out therapists who have been practicing in the field for at least a decade, longer when possible. Research doesn’t show much difference between the quality of therapy outcomes based upon a clinician’s degree or training, but it does show that the longer a clinician has been practicing, usually the better client outcomes. This means that experienced therapists will be more likely to help you. Seek out a therapist with specific experience with your issue — you don’t want to be any therapist’s first time client for the problem you’re grappling with! Ask point-blank questions about the therapist’s experience in your first session with them. Don’t be shy! After all, it’s all about you and your care here. You’re interviewing the therapist as much as they are interviewing you. Take the opportunity to ask about the therapist’s experience with your issue. For instance, questions such as:
- “How long have you been in practice?”
- “Have you seen a lot of clients with similar concerns to my own?”
- “When was the last time you treated someone with a problem similar to mine?”
are all appropriate to ask your therapist in the first session. Listen to the answers and make your decision about whether this therapist will help you or not accordingly.