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5 Things to Remember When Choosing a Therapist

Psychological and Counseling Services Last updated

May is Mental Health Awareness month! This is as perfect time as any to talk about what to look for in a therapist. Congratulations! You’ve decided you want to take your mental health in your own hands and now it’s about finding a therapist who’s a good fit for you.

Here are some things to remember when starting your therapy journey:

1. Know what you’re going in for

Some folks know that they have severe panic attacks, so they want to learn how to manage those in therapy. Other folks are having troubles in their relationships (family, work, romantic) so they want to get an idea of what’s going on there. Others aren’t quite sure what’s going on, but they’re experiencing something a little off and want to explore it. It helps you and your therapist have a path to start your journey on, even if that path is overgrown with weeds, have a starting point. When you know what you’re going into therapy for, it helps you know what type of therapist to look for.

2. Pay attention to what they advertise

This goes along the same lines as Tip 1- If you are positive that you want to tackle those pesky panic attacks, a therapist who specializes in panic attacks will be your best bet. Look for a therapist who advertises what you’re experiencing or what you would like to focus your journey on. A therapist who advertises themselves as a couples’ therapist might not be the best fit when the goal is managing panic attacks. All therapists have a similar training, but when a person specializes in something or heavily advertises something will know more about that specific treatment. You don’t need to be the expert on what you’re looking for; it is okay to try out a few therapists in the style of Goldie Locks and the Three Bears. A helpful tip is to find therapists who offer free consultations to get to know them and their style before paying for a session.

3.  Be honest

Everything you tell your therapist is confidential except for instances of abuse and harming self or others. If you’re having severe panic attacks and aren’t honest about the 7 cups of coffee you drink in a day, you’re not going to get the most out of your experience. The therapist’s job is not to judge you so if that’s the experience you’re having than bring it up to them. Being honest means being vulnerable so it’s going to feel “safer” to omit here and there, but you will get the most out of the journey with the more honesty and vulnerability you bring to the session.

4. We don’t give advice

You can definitely ask our advice and if we have any opinions on the matter, but that doesn’t mean we will give them to you. This often a struggle in the beginning of a therapeutic relationship because you just want the difficulty to be gone. Our job is not to give you advice because your friends, family members, and coworkers can do that for you. Our job is to go on the journey with you and shine light on things you might not see. We are like the flashlight you hold in a dark cave; we won’t tell you where to go, but we’ll help you look at things in the dark.

5. Differences in titles

Don’t be afraid to work with someone with “Associate” or “Intern” in their title. An Associate of Marriage and Family Therapy is (usually) going to be cheaper than a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist because they’re not licensed yet, but that doesn’t mean they’re less qualified. Also, the unlicensed therapist will have ongoing and direct supervision with a licensed therapist which is a benefit for you because it’s like you’re getting two therapists for the price of one!

The major point I hope you’ll take away from this is; you have a choice in your mental health service. You have the choice of who you want to see, when you want to be seen, and how much you want to