How To Find the Right Therapist for You
This is a great question. A good way to start is to look at the therapists available in your area or online that and to scroll through their bios. Try to identify what therapeutic traits matter most to you. For example, does the gender of the therapist matter; do they need to have a certain specialty; would you prefer that they utilize a specific type of therapy (ie. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychoanalyis). The next step is to call one or several therapists that you are interested in. Notice how you feel while talking with them on the phone. You may or may not know whether this therapist will be the right fit for you after a 15 min phone call, but you will get a sense of their personality or therapeutic style by the way they answer your questions.
The next step is to assess how you feel when you are in session with your therapist. The first few sessions of therapy you will be getting to know your therapist and vice versa. Over this time your level of comfortability with them should increase; if it does not then its good to ask yourself what thoughts and feelings are coming up for you when you talk with them and when you leave a session. The amount of time to feel comfortable with your therapist varies according to your beliefs about therapy, the presenting problem and your expectations for therapy. For example, if you are very nervous about discussing your presenting problem or issue; if you are generally uncomfortable with the idea of therapy or if its generally hard for you to trust others, then it will usually take longer for you to feel comfortable in therapy. A therapist will usually want to know how you feel about the progress of your therapy and how comfortable you are feeling.
This is quite rare, but if you ever feel belittled or dismissed by your therapist then I would encourage you to tell them this and let them know how this makes you feel. If in discussing this matter you still feel unheard or uncomfortable I would not continue to see them as your therapist.
Overall, the most important qualities to look for in a therapist are: empathy, sensitivity to your feelings and insight into your presenting problem or issue. The remainder is personality and its important to like your therapists' personality. Some clients like when a therapist uses humor, other's don't; some clients' like when their therapist is direct, other's don't etc. Remember, the therapeutic progress works best when you like your therapist as a person and feel confident in their ability to help you. If after several sessions you don't feel this way, then it may be time to start looking for assistance elsewhere.
Kellie Montgomery, LMFT