Chances are, by the time you’ve made the decision to seek therapy, you’re already feeling overwhelmed. You’ve finally taken a huge step in the direction towards making positive changes in your life, and then this happens; a google search on therapists in your area provides 500 results. Something that seemed like a great idea 6.42 seconds ago, now appears to be a herculean task. How do you go about narrowing the field and choosing the right professional for you?
- One of the most important things to look for is a professional who holds a valid and active license to practice psychotherapy in your state. Depending on the degree the professional holds, you may verify a license by checking with your state board. For example, if you’re looking for a psychologist in New York, you would check in with the New York State Board of Psychology to verify a license. There are many individuals out there who claim to provide services that relieve anxiety, depression, and stress, and not all of them are licensed to provide psychotherapy. While not endorsements, state licensing boards do ensure that practitioners have met certain minimum education and training requirements. Checking on the front end will save you time, money, and stress on the back end.
- Look for someone who has specific expertise in the difficulties that you are experiencing. If that information is not listed on a therapist’s website, a reputable therapist will have no problem answering questions about their experience treating particular problems, and working with particular age groups.
- Which leads to the next point…don’t be afraid to ask questions! In my experience, most people spend more time and ask more in depth questions when shopping for computer equipment than when shopping for a therapist. This makes total sense to me on some level. Coming to the decision to seek treatment is difficult enough, most folks don’t want to prolong the process. Additionally, most people aren’t quite sure of what questions to ask. Start with the basics, such as how much experience they have treating your problem, how they work, and any other questions that might help you feel more comfortable scheduling an in person consultation.
- Look for someone who will explain how they provide treatment, and help you to determine reasonable goals. Psychotherapy should not be a mystery. It’s reasonable within the first few sessions to expect to lay out with your therapist what your goals are, what the plan is to help you meet those goals, and how progress towards your goals will be measured.
Congratulations on making the decision to seek help. It takes courage to take these first steps. I hope that I’ve been able to provide some guidance to make the process less overwhelming, and to help you on your journey!