Deciding to have therapy is the hardest part of starting your therapy journey. You’re halfway there. Don’t give up now!
The next challenge is to find the right therapist for you. There are so many different kinds of therapists: counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, each with their own unique skills and focus.
So you may be wondering, how on earth do I find the right therapist for me?
To Find The Right Therapist, Ask Yourself These Three Questions
1. Do I need specialised therapy for a known disorder or condition?
If you’ve been previously diagnosed with a condition such as PTSD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or an anxiety disorder and you want ongoing help to manage your condition and/or medication, consider seeking out a therapist who specialises in your condition.
In this instance, start with your GP and ask them for a referral for the most appropriate type of professional for you.
You can also visit the Australian Psychological Society website for a listing of registered psychologists.
For many of these disorders, medication will be required and you may need to consult a psychiatrist before you start therapy. Otherwise, you will base your choice more on the next two questions.
2. Does gender matter?
Some people feel more comfortable with a therapist who’s the same gender, or even the opposite gender.
If this is true for you or even if you think it may be, acknowledge this preference and embrace it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with insisting on a therapist of a specific gender.
3. Can I get a personal recommendation?
When starting to search for a therapist, you might like to ask family and friends (if they live near to you) for recommendations.
Of course, just because a therapist is perfect for one person does not mean they are ideal for everyone, but the people in your circles may have had positive results with a therapist and they can talk to you about why they like this person.
Word of mouth between trusted friends and acquaintances is the most powerful type of referral so if you’ve heard good things about a therapist in your area, that is often a good place to start.
Now that you have some clarity, your search begins.
The Right Therapist is Accessible
The location of your therapist’s clinic is an important consideration.
Travel time to and from home or work to your therapy sessions can have a huge impact on your ability to commit, and therefore the likelihood of real change and healing.
If you struggle to fit in your appointments because the bus takes an hour in each direction, or if it costs you a $50 cab fare each time, you may find it difficult to keep attending.
Sometimes the opposite is true – you may seek to attend therapy in a location further away from your area because of a strong desire for privacy and anonymity.
That’s ok if that’s what you need, but be careful not to let shame govern this decision. Remember, seeing a therapist is not a sign of weakness or illness. Many happy, healthy, functional people attend therapy (and therapy is possibly why they are happy, healthy and functional!)
To set yourself up for success, find a therapist in a location that works for you, your schedule and your lifestyle. If travel or mobility are issues for you, consider online virtual counselling.
The Right Therapist Is Easily Contacted
Before we get into this, please note that I am not implying that your therapist should give out their personal phone number and be on call night and day.
This is specific to that time when you are searching for a new therapist. To find out more about them and the services they offer, you should not have to work too hard.
In this information age, the internet is an invaluable source of information. Ideally your therapist will have easily accessible information available on the web.
Your first port of call might be their website or the website of the practice where they offer services. Hopefully, you’ll find details there on their special areas of interest, their schedule and availability, fees and payment methods as well as contact details.
Ideally there will also be an “About Me” section where you can find out even more about your potential new therapist.
If there is no website for the counsellor you’re interested in, you might want to research them in the following ways:
- Call them! Some (but not all) therapists are happy to talk on the phone prior to booking your appointment. Having a direct conversation is a powerful way to assess not only if they are well-placed to help you, but if you like their energy and personality. (Note: if your therapist is not able to receive direct calls, this is not an indication that they are not right for you. They are likely very busy with a reception team to field calls, and this is the sign of a successful and popular therapist!)
- Check Facebook and LinkedIn for their professional name. Some therapists may put their information on these platforms rather than have a website.
- Drop in to their clinic and have a chat to their receptionist.
If you are struggling to make this first contact or get a response, keep searching. A good therapist will not make it hard for you to connect with them. If it’s a struggle just to get started, they may not be the right therapist for you.
The Right Therapist Is Someone You Can Talk To
The first therapy session is an opportunity for both you and your new therapist to get a feel for how you will work together.
Of course, your therapist will invite you to speak about the reasons for your visit and what you hope to achieve. You might leave with some homework or a tool to try out, and you may immediately feel the optimism of progress.
As well as practical advice for changing your life, you will also get a feel for how your therapist responds to you on a natural, instinctive, human level – outside of their training as a professional. Yes we have extensive skills and education, yet we are human beings with quirks and personalities the same as everyone else.
Not every human is well-suited to connecting deeply with (or even being in the same room as) every other human.
This means that after your first appointment, if you feel that the vibe was off, the connection wasn’t there or if you downright irritated each other, it’s perfectly ok to try another therapist.
You should emerge with the feeling that you’ve been heard.
Your therapist should convey empathy, and a willingness to help you through your challenge.
You should go home confident that you’ve just enlisted a new team member who is on your side, or at least feel the potential for strong support from this person.
You should absolutely not feel judged, ridiculed or shamed.
Often it takes two or three or more sessions to really make up your mind. But listen to your intuition too.
If you emerge from session one feeling certain you do not want to attend session two, make an allowance for the notion that this might not be the therapist for you.
This doesn’t mean you stop trying to find the right therapist – keep going. But give yourself permission to try someone new.
Be careful not to use this as an excuse to sabotage your efforts though.
If you’ve attended appointments with ten different therapists and concluded they are all not right for you, the problem may not be the therapists!
To Find The Right Therapist Quickly, Start Looking Now!
Using the tips above, you should now have an idea of what kind of therapist you are looking for, how to find them, and how to tell if they are right for you.
The sooner you start earnestly searching for your therapist, the sooner you will find them and the faster you can make progress.
We often see people coming in for psychological treatment who have delayed getting help for many months or years. They have been afraid, but they don’t know exactly what they are afraid of.
Usually, we find the fear is just accumulated procrastination. They know they want to seek help, but it doesn’t seem urgent or life-threatening so taking the first step keeps falling to the bottom of the to-do list.
After all, there are always reasons not to make that first appointment – lack of time or money being common reasons.
So “find new therapist” becomes an unaddressed task that floats around causing mild stress, because even though it doesn’t feel urgent, it’s not going away either.
The unpleasant feeling builds, and so does resistance. It turns into fear. But because it’s largely dismissed, the person isn’t even sure what they are afraid of.
Now, on top of the life challenges they’ve been facing, they have the added stress of inaction.
Does this sound familiar?
Taking that first step of booking your appointment is in itself a therapeutic action.
Even though you may feel nervous about seeing a counsellor, try booking an appointment.
Do you notice a feeling of relief? A sense of momentum?
No more delays. It’s time. Book here at The Bondi Psychologist, and let’s find the right therapist for you.