5 Things People Wish They Knew When Choosing a Therapist

Often I hear from friends and clients say that they have no idea how to determine whether a therapist is right for them. Therefore, I have outlined some of the common mistakes people make when choosing a therapist. 

1.) They assume all therapists are trained and qualified to help clients with a wide range of problems. 

Would you go see a back doctor if your foot hurt? Below, I have outlined the different titles that therapists can have and what their degree focuses on.

  • Psychiatrists: Medically trained and focus on prescribing psychotropic medications.
  • Psychologists: Trained in psychological testing such as i.e. ADHD testing and IQ testing.
  • LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Workers): these therapists work in a wide range of mental and emotional health issues. Depending on their degree and focus in their master’s or doctorate degree, their specialties may vary.
  • LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse): medically trained in taking care of clients physical health needs and tend to work under the direction of a nurse or a physician. In some states however, these individuals are allowed to practice psychotherapy.
  • LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists): these mental health clinicians are trained in systems theory and understand an individual is a part of a larger whole (family or couple). This allows the therapist to understand their mental and emotional issues with more depth and understanding because they look at the context of the client as a part of a bigger network of other people.

2.) They choose a therapist who struggles with balancing empathy and action in their sessions.

Most people only know therapists from the movies and believe that as long as their therapist emotionally supports and validates them, that they chose a “great” therapist. This could not be further from the truth! A “great” therapist is one that is focused on results in the quality of your daily life, not just when you are in their office. 

A great therapist provides the emotional support, but works with you to develop a treatment plan that is significantly action oriented and results focused.

3.) They choose a therapist that doesn’t take into consideration the other people the client is connected to.

 We are all social beings. Most therapists will only work with the client on their own individual perspective, beliefs, and feelings, which could have devastating results with the clients spouse, family members, and/or co-workers that they care deeply about. How sustainable do you think the changes a therapist could help you make, if they caused problems with your loved ones? A great therapist knows that the results their clients seek need to be sustainable, realistic, and increase harmony in all area’s of a clients life; not just one area. When interviewing with a therapist during a consultation, ask them how they specifically strategize with clients on creating lasting change. If their response does not include anything about how the change will impact the people you connect with daily or are sustainable in your daily life, which should be a major warning sign.

4.) They choose a therapist that isn’t enthusiastic or energetic with their clients.

If your therapist isn’t lively, engaging, and energetic, how excited and motivated do you think you are going to feel to change any area of your life? Great therapists recognize that they need to assist the client in changing their state from bored, sad, and frustrated, to empowered, motivated, and enthusiastic. A therapist that is only lively and engaged some of the time, model inconsistency, which is the last characteristic a client needs when trying to change any area of their life. Therapists that are passionate about what they do, comes through in their language and their overall representation of themselves when you meet with them. Engaging a client’s mind seldom creates sustainable changes unless it is paired with emotions. 

5.) They choose a therapist that either doesn’t or rarely pushes them outside of their comfort zone.

         If a therapist never breaks a client out of their comfortable zone of behavior, how do they expect anything to significantly alter their client’s quality of life? This is the pinnacle of a great therapist because they will be able to do this so strategically with a client that the client feels empowered not scared.

I hope that this was helpful for you in looking for a mental health clinician that serves your needs. Best of luck and keep focused on changing yourself, instead of others.