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How to Choose the Right Therapist for You

Originally published on SelfGrowth.com

Admitting to yourself that you need to seek therapy can be a difficult process, but it is admirable and can be a real turning point in your life. Whether you have ongoing mental health issues, problems in your past that you need to work through, or simply want someone to speak to freely with, therapy can offer you effective ways to deal with your feelings and the issues you are experiencing. Finding the right therapist for you is an essential part of this process. Dr. Alexander Neumeister, prominent psychiatrist, shares how to choose the right therapist for you:

You need to be able to speak openly, honestly, and without fear of judgment, so choosing a therapist that you feel comfortable with is important. The first step is to find some potential therapists who are qualified to practice therapy, have rates that are within your or your insurance provider's financial range, and are close enough that you can travel to them. However, your consideration should not end here.

One of the most important and often overlooked aspects of therapy is whether you require a directive or non-directive approach. Many people want a therapist who will act as a source of advice and teach them better ways to deal with their problems. This - a therapist who will tell you what to do - would be directive therapy. Others just want a person who they can vent to, discussing their issues and essentially getting things off their chest. This - a therapist who listens and talks through things with you - would be non-directive therapy.

Once you have decided what sort of therapy you need, you should think about the type of person you'll want to speak with. Maybe you would feel more comfortable speaking with a woman or a man, or perhaps you want a therapist who is close to your own age. It might be important for you to find someone who has many years of experience, or someone recently qualified who has a fresh perspective on therapy. There might be more specific things that would make you feel more comfortable. For example, you might want to see someone who has experience working with people of different cultures, sexual orientation or gender identities. You might not be able to find someone who fulfills all your criteria, but keep in mind any characteristics that your therapist needs to have for you to feel comfortable speaking to them.

Perhaps you don't have any specific criteria for a potential therapist. In that case, you should simply look for a therapist who works in your area of need. Most therapists see a specific sort of client and have particular expertise in that area, such as working with children, people with anxiety issues, or survivors of abuse. Search for someone who is a good fit for you and the things that you would like help with. “Therapists are generally qualified to work with all sorts of people, and the therapeutic approach might be more important than the specifics of your problem, but it can be particularly helpful to work with a therapist who has a good knowledge of how to help people like you,” suggested Dr. Alexander Neumeister.

When you've found a good candidate, see whether you can meet them for a consultation, communicate through email or telephone, or make an appointment. At this stage, you need to find out whether you can speak openly with them without feeling uncomfortable or judged. This is one of the most important factors for an effective therapeutic experience. You don't have to feel like they're an old friend, of course, but the right therapist for you will make you feel accepted. You should have the same goals in mind and they should show you that they are invested in your wellness. If the therapist you are seeing makes you feel uncomfortable, unaccepted, or isn't helping you, then you should look for someone else. It is perfectly normal to meet more than one therapist before you find the right one for you, but it is worth it when you find the right person.

Do your research and don't be disheartened if the first therapist you meet isn't the right one for you. Taking the step to enter therapy is a big and brave decision, and you deserve to find someone who will help you to work through your issues, whatever they may be. Therapy is an investment in your wellness so look for someone who can help you to feel well and stay open to the different options.

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