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How to Choose a Counselor or Therapist

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It’s easy to find a counselor but perhaps more difficult to know if you’ve found one who is right for you. There are a number of questions you can ask that will help you to choose a counselor. This short article outlines 14 of these questions, in no particular order (please note, the words “therapist” and “counselor” are used interchangeably). Thanks to the GoodTherapy.org therapist members who contributed their ideas for this article!

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1. What does it feel like for you to sit with the therapist? Do you feel safe and comfortable? Is it easy to make small talk? Is the person down-to-earth and easy to relate to or does he or she feel cold and emotionally removed? Is the counselor “stuck in her head,” or overly emotional and empathic? Is the therapist a “know-it-all” or arrogant? Sure, for many of us, going to a therapist for the first time is a bit anxiety provoking, and it’s important to tease out our own “stuff” from the actual counselor. But, if a counselor doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, that’s okay; there’s absolutely no contract or rule requiring you to continue working with any counselor. However, it’s important to check to see if there’s a part of you avoiding therapy through a dislike or judgment of the therapist. If you find yourself reacting negatively to every counselor you see, then the issue could be yours and may warrant your sticking it out with a counselor in an effort to work through your fears of beginning therapy.

2. What’s the counselor’s general philosophy and approach to helping? Does your counselor approach human beings in a compassionate and optimistic way? Does he or she believe humans are born loving and lovable, or does the counselor believe people are genetically deficient? We at GoodTherapy.org believe that good therapists and counselors adhere to the elements of good therapy.

3. Can the counselor clearly define how he or she can help you to solve whatever issue or concern has brought you to therapy? Experienced counselors explain how they can help, are able to give you a basic “road map,” to their approach, and can even give an indication of how you will know when therapy is finished.

4. Does the counselor seek regular peer consultation? An important professional activity for any wise counselor is regular consultation with peers or consultants. Consultation serves a number of purposes, such as, but not limited to, reviewing cases, receiving advice, getting unstuck, discovering one’s own blind spots, and noticing how one’s own “stuff” may be getting in the way. Consultation provides a counselor with a necessary reality check, a degree of objectivity, and feedback. Even the best therapists benefit from the help of others.

5. Can your counselor accept feedback and admit mistakes? A healthy counselor is open to feedback and to learning that something he or she said hurt or offended you. Good therapists are willing to look at themselves, to check their feelings, and to honestly and openly admit mistakes.

6. Does the counselor encourage dependence or independence? Good therapy doesn’t solve your problems; it helps you to solve your own. Likewise, good therapy doesn’t soothe your overwhelming feelings; it helps you learn to soothe your own feelings. Like the old proverb, therapy is most powerful when it helps people to learn to fish for themselves rather than rely on another to feed them. If your counselor provides wisdom, answers, or emotional support without encouraging you to access your own resources, it is more likely you will become dependent on your therapist to help you feel better, rather than learning to depend on yourself.

7. Has your counselor done his or her own therapy? One of the best ways to learn how to help someone to heal is to do your own therapy and to experience the healing process firsthand. Thus, therapists who have been in their own therapy benefit from this as a learning experience and are probably better equipped to help because of it. Most good healers are wounded healers—those who, in the process of healing their own wounds, have developed the know-how to help others to heal theirs.

8. Does the therapist have experience helping others with the particular issues for which you are seeking therapy? The more experience therapists have addressing a particular issue, concern, or problem area, the more expertise they have developed.

9. Does the counselor make guarantees or promises? It’s important for a therapist to provide hope but not absolute unconditional guarantees. If you have the will to change and put in the necessary time and energy, healing is possible. Most of our wounds and defenses are the result of what has happened to us and to those around us. Healing can happen quickly in psychotherapy, but only after getting safely through the layers of protective gate keepers, which understandably can take a long time. So, although everyone is capable of healing, changes can take years to happen for some people; unfortunately, because time is limited, some may never achieve the level of healing they desire in this lifetime. In addition, people are not always at a time and place in their growth where they are ready to heal, and a given therapist may not be the right person to help them. Overall, there are numerous factors at play in the therapy process that may contribute to or interfere with healing; we are conscious of some of these factors and unaware of others. And so, there are no guarantees without conditions. More information is available in the section titled “Sometimes We Can’t Help” on the Elements of Good Therapy page.

10. Does your counselor adhere to ethical principles in regard to issues such as boundaries, dual relationships, and confidentiality? There are numerous ethical guidelines designed to keep counselors from harming clients. Most importantly, there is a guideline barring against dual relationships. When a therapist enters into a therapeutic relationship with a client, he or she should not have any other relationship with that person, such as teacher, friend, employer, or family member, although there are some exceptions to this rule in villages or very rural communities. The principle behind this guideline is really about whose needs are being met. A therapist should be there to meet your counseling-related needs for empathy, understanding, support, guidance, unburdening, and healing. When a counselor gets his or her own needs (emotional or otherwise) met by the client, he or she has crossed a boundary, and the therapy process can be damaged or ruined. This is one of many ethical guidelines, and it’s important for a counselor to adhere to these. For more information on ethical standards, you can visit these links:

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Code of Ethics
American Psychological Association (APA) Code of Ethics
American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics
National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics

11. Is the counselor licensed? Licensure implies that a counselor has engaged in extensive postgraduate counseling experience which, depending on the state of licensure, may include up to 3,000 hours of required supervised experience. It also means the counselor has passed a licensing exam. There are many unlicensed therapists who have years of experience and do excellent work, but licensed counselors have (generally but not always) jumped through more hoops and have undergone more extensive supervision than unlicensed counselors. You can contact your state professional licensing board to verify the licensure of a provider.

12. Does the counselor have a graduate degree? There are numerous people who call themselves “counselors” or “therapists” because they have taken a weekend seminar or have learned a certain therapeutic approach. But without a graduate degree in counseling, psychology, social work, marriage and family therapy, or another related field of study, such a person lacks the education, training, and skills to provide safe psychotherapy and counseling. It is highly recommended to only work with counselors and therapists who have graduate training.

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People without graduate-level education in a mental health field may lack the necessary skills and know-how to properly diagnose and treat issues, and there is a great danger in misdiagnosing and mistreating. Psychology is an enormous field, and human beings are multifaceted and complex. It takes years of education and training to effectively help people. Without the proper training, there is great risk of causing harm.

13. Does the counselor have postgraduate training? Many new counselors fresh out of graduate school have had excellent book learning but lack enough actual counseling experience to claim expertise and feel totally confident. Postgraduate training in a particular approach to psychotherapy is often the next step in a new counselor’s career and is helpful in getting a new counselor to the next level, where he or she will have more confidence and know-how.

14. Have any complaints been filed with the board? If so, what are the complaints, and have they been satisfactorily resolved? To see if a counselor has a record or is under investigation, you can check with your state licensing board, usually under the state department of health or occupational licensing.

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© Copyright 2007 by Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, WA. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments
  • R Wells May 17th, 2007 at 11:05 AM #1

    What a great resource for everyone. You provide a good service

  • Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. May 27th, 2007 at 8:27 AM #2

    As an eating disorders and addictions expert, I recommend looking for a therapist who specializes in your problem area. For example, not all therapists are skilled at couples or family therapy and you want to put yourself into the hands of the person with the most expertise and experience. Regarding eating disorders and addictions, I would only suggest going to someone who has substantial skill in these areas; a generic therapist won’t do. In many geographic areas, the general populace is fortunate that they can choose from a wide variety of gifted and talented therapists in numerous specialty areas.

  • Jodi Blackley May 27th, 2007 at 8:52 AM #3

    I like the premise of what you have here. I think the order of the questions might want to be rethought as you describe the licensing process in the 1st question, including all the requirements (post-licensure experience, exams, etc.) and then discuss in the 4th and 5th questions the same information (do they have post-licensure experience? Do they have an advanced degree?). The information becomes redundant in this manner.

    I like the question on guaranteeing results and how you explain it to your clients. This is VERY important for clients to understand!

  • Jennyfer Raden May 27th, 2007 at 10:12 AM #4

    Thank you for your succinct and clear list of ways to choose a counselor. I have a few suggestions in response to your request for feedback.
    Based on the meta-research done at The Institute for the Study of Therapeutic Change (ISTC) talkingcure.com by Barry Duncan and Scott Miller, the most important and easily controlled for element of therapeutic change is the feeling of trust and understanding between the client and the counselor. These “alliance factors” account for about 60% of the general therapeutic change. Based on this research I would recommend moving the following statement, “9. What does it feel like for you to sit with the therapist?” up to number one in your list. One thing I would add to this paragraph is that therapy should show some change within the first 3 sessions (same research set). If clients are not seeing change or experiencing some relief within that 3 session window, they may need to seek a different therapist.
    The second most important factor in therapeutic change, according to this meta-research, is allegiance factors. This is the understanding that the client’s beliefs about change and healing are matched by the counselor’s practice and beliefs. Based on that knowledge, I would recommend moving the following statement, “5. What’s the counselor’s general philosophy and approach to helping?” to number two on your list and changing the paragraph to include information about how the philosophy and approach matches client expectations.
    Research also supports a much stronger statement than number 11 about accepting feedback. Effective therapists do more than accept feedback offered by clients. They actively solicit criticism about what is working and not working in counseling through end of session commentary, written questionnaires and follow-up surveys. Good therapy requires an ongoing conversation between counselor and client about what is helpful and what is not useful.
    My other suggestion is not yet supported by research but based on a personal bias. I think that the following question, “6. Can the counselor clearly define how they can help you to solve whatever issue or concern has brought you to therapy?” should also be moved up on the list. A good counselor should be able to explain the assessment process they use to determine what is not working. They should be able to clearly define what skills or changes are necessary and how they will explore those skills. They should also be able to describe how both parties will know when therapy is complete. If you cannot help people understand how they are becoming healthier, you will not be able to tell if you are actually helping them.
    Thank you for the work you are doing to promote functional and effective counseling.

    Jennyfer Raden

  • Roger Macdivitt May 27th, 2007 at 10:51 AM #5

    In the UK at present it is not possible or needed to register. I am a member of the American Board of Hypnotherapy which for me in the UK is all that is required.
    All of the other so called professional associations in this country are nothing but businesses and therefore are not any more a reliable indicator than my qualification.
    Where does this leave me in registation with yourselves.
    Roger Macdivitt

  • Claire Asherson Bartram May 28th, 2007 at 6:35 AM #6

    A note to say that in the UK there is no licensure or requirement that a psychotherapist holds a graduate degree. Instead there are accreditation organisations UKCP, BACP or BCP which require a level of experience and proficiency, including a number of hours in therapy, training, continuing professional development etc. These organisations are responsible for standards, codes of ethics, complaints and so forth.

    Therefore, in the UK it is useful to know whether a therapist or counsellor is accredited and who with.

  • Marcia Singer Witrgoen June 26th, 2007 at 1:12 PM #7

    From the time I was a student in psychiatric social work in the 70′s, I understood instinctively that when we “label” something, name it, it “exists”. I’ve shunned the “pathologizing” capability of psychiatric labels. With the assumed “power” given therapists/doctors by our suggestible clients/patients, identifying someone with (or as) a disease becomes their identity all too often. Only a strong, self-knowing soul could escape the pitfalls of that kind of diagnosing: I’ve never operated that way, and today, even try to avoid “calling someone” “codependent,” etc. We must find “labels” that lead our wards to their True, gifted Selves, that empower them- and ourselves, in the process. The labels often serve only to keep people in therapy -eh?

  • Doris Jeanette, Psy.D. July 21st, 2007 at 10:18 AM #8

    After 30+ years of experience as a licensed psychologist I know degrees and licenses mean nothing–zip. Nope, give me an emotionally safe person instead! A loving person, who is open hearted is the only one who can help anyone else. Got to heal yourself before you can help anyone else.

    Professionals are not up to speed most of the time in the “Open Heart” department, but the ones that are–are great! Visit my web site, drjeanette.com for an article on “How to Pick the Perfect Practitioner for You” to make sure you do not get guilt tripped into staying with unhealthy therapists. There are some voice, non verbal and emotional ways to check them out.

  • Deborah Cole, Psy.D. July 21st, 2007 at 1:53 PM #9

    I would emphasize that dual relationships include having sexual or romantic relationships with a client. This unfortunately still happens and when it does the patient may feel “special” but is really being exploited, and the therapy ends.

    I would also suggest that a client can be comfortable with a therapist but such comfort can mean tha the client is not being challenged to change ways of thinking or being in the world. There must be a level of comfort, including the comfort that comes from being understood, but it there is no strain, there is probably no gain. For example, I have seen plenty of people with OCD who have been comfortable seeing counselors but they have received “talk therapy” or “relaxation therapy” and have had to continue suffering for months or years when what they really needed was exposure therapy. Exposure therapy makes the person somewhat more anxious in the beginning but the patient who can tolerate the titrated anxiety gets better, often quickly. So my point is an obvious one: comfort is not enough.

  • Deah Curry PhD July 22nd, 2007 at 11:15 AM #10

    As a therapist in private practice since 1990, I would add a word of caution regarding the assumption that counselors who have jumped the licensure and supervision hoops may thereby be better at helping clients achieve emotional balance.

    These hoops are designed to identify and treat psychopathologies of serious mental illness. They are nearly oblivious to the dissatisfactions of normal clients dealing with the everyday stresses of life, and generally are not useful to therapists in helping clients find deeper meaning, satisfaction, personal growth, and wholeness.

    In my opinion, more important than licensure are the factors of:
    ~graduate and post graduate training
    ~continued education including a consultive relationship with peers
    ~successful experience working with others with the same issue ~whether the therapist has done their own therapy, and continues to address their own personal issues with a therapist of their own.

    Most important, as research shows, is the rapport established between client and counselor. If you can’t feel comfortable with your therapist, it’s unlikely you will be able to open up and examine your issues to the degree necessary for healing and change.

    Dr Deah Curry PhD
    Holistic Counselor
    Therapeutic Coach

  • Kimberly Kino, LPC August 1st, 2007 at 1:54 PM #11

    I always suggest that clients perform a telephone interview with at least 5 counselors. The counselor they pick should represent the person that is the best employee.

  • Dr. Erica Goodstone August 2nd, 2007 at 4:03 PM #12

    Begin by doing a little personal research. Decide why your are seeking counseling at this time, what you main issues or concerns are, what type of therapist might be best for you (style of therapy, male or female, location, etc.). Ask people you know and trust for referrals. Google the words: psychotherapy, one or two words that describe your issue, problem or concern, and the city or state where you live. Do a serious review of the credentials, philosophy and background of each of the therapists that seem to fit your requirements. Send an email to those that interest you. Wait for an email response and then call the one therapist that you feel is appropriate for you. if the therapist you have chosen does not respond to your email or fails to return your phone call, check out another therapist.
    Keep seeking until you have a satisfying conversation on the telephone with a therapist that answers your most pertinent questions and “feels” right.

  • Garth Mintun, LCSW August 19th, 2007 at 3:27 PM #13

    Good article! How about finding out what the therapist’s values are? I often reccomend that people interview therapists to see what there values are and their world view.

    Often time’s people go to therapy because they are in intense emotional pain and need assistance in dealing with this. Very seldom are psychotherapists asked about their “world view” and their values, even though this will impact the therapy process. Psychotherapists are people and have biases. The way traditional therapy is set up is with an ‘expert” who has an unequal power relationship with the client. Therapists who are aware of this power relationship can hold their bias in check or continue to work on it. A good therapist will be up front with their biases and ask the client for consultation.

    Psychotherapists have a world view. Do they (psychotherapists) see clients as enriching their lives? Does the psychotherapist believe their clients are experts in knowing themselves and what they need? Does the psychotherapist ask the client mid point during the session if they are going in the correct direction of the therapeutic process? Does the psychotherapist see the client as having problems that are external from the person or do they believe that the client “owns their problem”? What does the therapist believe their role in psychotherapy is? What are the psychotherapist’s views on people who are marginalized by normative society? Does the therapist actively try to correct social injustice with marginalized people—how do they respond in the therapy room?

    Clients need to interview their therapists to learn more and of course to see if their views are compatible. Therapy sessions work more effectively when open mutuality exists. This allows the therapist and client to acknowledge their human vulnerability, make mistakes and those errors can be understood and repaired.

  • Therapist Cary September 13th, 2007 at 9:29 AM #14

    It’s one thing to study all the theoretical approaches to effective social work, it’s quite something else to know the nature of the beast by personal experience. Since we can’t all be poor or homeless or or homeless military veteran, for instance, we need to read the chronicles of those who have successfully navigated this difficult terrain. One such resource I’ve found and recommend is: “Down Town: True Tales of Trial and Triumph on the Mean Streets” by the NASNA 2003 Award winning author Robert E. Lipscomb of St. Louis.
    eaglesviewpress.com Read this, thank me later. Peace.

  • Therapist King of Prussia December 30th, 2007 at 3:32 PM #15

    I think people obtaining help though therapy is important. Your therapy blog is very informative. I would love to add a link from my therapy site to your therapy site.

  • S. N. June 26th, 2008 at 9:15 PM #16

    I agree with Doris Jeanette that credentials don’t mean much. A therapist can have credentials out the wahzoo, and still not be a good therapist. I am not sure I favor credentialing rules in states … frankly, there are people with no graduate degree who are very effective therapists and many with Doctorates who are not at all suited for the role. I had excellent therapy as a client with an English professor who had Gestalt training. This was in the 1970s and now someone without a counseling or related degree would not be allowed to do that in that particular state.

  • Kathleen August 15th, 2008 at 4:48 PM #17

    Looking for psychiatrist who is comfortable w/ alternative therapy. Had reaction to topamax which started anxiety and now multiple medication reactions. Don’t want to be “zoned out” the rest of my life! Want my chemistry corrected. Are there any out there in the No. VA area? Thanks!
    Kathleen RN MSN

  • Patty Ciancarelli September 9th, 2008 at 7:25 PM #18

    I need a lot of help. But I don’t know who to turn to. Is there a therapist who is a catholic? I have maritial and emotional problems. Questions that I can’t find answers to. I don’t know where to turn. If one of you are a therapist who can be honest, who have a catholic upbringing and is compassionate and caring then you are the therapist for me.

  • Abigail November 2nd, 2008 at 10:33 PM #19

    I hold an undergrad Psych degree from UK, plus an MA in Acting which I combined in my work over the past 3 years as an educator, learning mentor (using play) and leading creative workshops for wellbeing. I am now wanting to continue my training to become a therapist (a little confused between ‘psychologist’ or ‘Counselor’), maybe even some day a doctor. If I am really serious about it, should I aim for an MA or would a diploma be enough? Can anyone in the profession tell me if there is a big divide between the titles ‘diploma’, ‘MA’, or ‘Doctorate’? Thanks, much appreciated!
    (PS I am planning to train in Vancouver, perhaps at the Adler school or Vancouver College of Counselling.. any tips on their reputations also much appreciated!)

  • Steve December 16th, 2008 at 6:30 PM #20

    I’m a plain ‘ole patient. I’ve had 10 therapist over 40 years, off and on (not to worry; I’m fine). Only the 1st time did I interview and the other times I simply chose one and started. One was obviously “bad” and I didn’t return. I left another after ~4 sessions because I felt he was simply too old (~75+,at least for me). I left a 3rd because I didn’t think we were a good match. Interviewing sounds good on paper but I suspect people under stress to the point of seeking therapy, which for most is a decision often postponed, may feel too stressed to shop around. For me, making the decision is a challenge. I wonder if it isn’t just as effective to start and “interview” on the fly, so to speak. Thanks for the site!

  • Lisa Marie January 3rd, 2009 at 8:50 AM #21

    This is a great list. I just recently switched therapists after recognizing that I just wasn’t going to get the type of help I needed, not because she wasn’t a good therapist, but that she just wasn’t informed enough with the specific reason why I was there. You can learn a lot of these things without having a formal interview process… but when you are taking your own life and time in your hands, I can see how important this would be to do quickly!

  • John January 14th, 2009 at 4:57 PM #22

    This is a great post and one I will share with others. In Chicago, there are many folks who provide therapy services. An article like this helps people to get concrete answers to questions regarding a search for a counselor.

  • sakshi May 11th, 2009 at 11:54 PM #23

    Great post its quite interesting i enjoy it.

    Thanks

  • Maurice Prout May 14th, 2009 at 8:11 PM #24

    Thanks for this informative blog. You have contemplated over every possible trait of a good counselor. A layman could not cross check all these traits on their own. Behavior study can be a great help in this matter. Behavior is the reflection of one’s personality therefore one can check at least the level of encouragement the counselor displays.

  • PROUT MAURICE F PHD May 22nd, 2009 at 4:24 AM #25

    Good blog. You have contemplated over every possible trait of a good counselor. A layman could not cross check all these traits on their own. Behavior study can be a great help in this matter. Behavior is the reflection of one’s personality therefore one can check at least the level of encouragement the counselor displays.

  • Stuart A. Kaplowitz, MFT August 12th, 2009 at 1:42 PM #26

    This are some wonderful things to look into when finding a counselor. A nice simple overview. Well done!

  • lasik reviews September 14th, 2009 at 7:55 AM #27

    This is great article about finding good therapist. I think here you write more about from necessity. Thanking you for sharing your knowledge with us.

  • Patricia King November 29th, 2009 at 7:42 AM #28

    This is, without a doubt, the best information I have seen. It is clear, to the point, written in layman’s terms, and thorough. Thank you for making it easy to follow.

  • Michelle December 17th, 2009 at 9:51 AM #29

    First of all, this blog has been very helpful to me as well as many others on your website. I have spent most of my time here, as I find many of my questions are fully addressed. I do, however, have a question regarding the rights and roles of parents of adolescents who are in therapy. My daughter has been going through therapy now three months, and I am beginning to consider moving my daughter to another counselor. I wanted to find out what rights parents have regarding their involvement when their child is in therapy. I feel lost and unsure of our path in therapy. I address concerns about therapeutic methods and still do not know exactly the process of all this. The therapist stated in the very first session that we are not to question our daughter about the therapy sessions, as it is confidential. I understand this factor, to a degree. Yet, it seems that I know nothing of where we are in therapy? When will we know we have fulfilled our goal? How does the counselor/parent-of-client relationship role play out in therapy? I would be glad to speak with someone more in depth about this if you could point me in the right direction. Thank you.

    ~Very Concerned Mom

  • Steve December 17th, 2009 at 3:00 PM #30

    I apologize if this is a duplicate response. I didn’t see my initial one posted.

    I don’t know if this will help, but when I was 19 and in therapy, my grandfather wrote to my therapist and asked for the same information that you are requesting. (My mom had just died and my dad was an MS invalid and not totally together cognitively). My therapist told me this although I don’t know what he offered in reply to my GF. If you daughter is <18, it seems that you must (absolutely) have the legal right to be kept fully informed and the right to expect regular updates in person if you wish. I can’t imagine it otherwise. As a father of 3 young adults I totally support your insistence on this.

    I might mention that years later I did come across a therapist who I felt was truly not competent. In addition to other things, in our 1st (and only) session, I found him aggressive to the point of nearly being verbally abusive. So undoubtedly, there are a few bad therapists out there, which merit caution and follow-up. And I kind of agree with your unstated assessment of concern regarding the therapist’s cautionary words to you. Maybe it was appropriate but only you know if it was or not and I feel that you should listen in part to your own intuition. Plus, your daughter should be able to provide assurance to you that she is at least comfortable with her therapist. I say that from my many years of therapy and 10 or so different therapists I’ve encountered over that time. That is to say, I'm just a patient.

    Good luck!

  • Hayley Moses July 13th, 2010 at 2:14 AM #31

    ummmm, i’m actually a wrist cutter in search of therapy and really what we look for is someone who will listen to what we have to say and let us tie the ends. cause most often you guys dont neccessarily see our logic behind what we’re doing. i..i’m not saying the list doesnt work i’m just saying..this is what actual “patients” look for. and we aren’t “cases” we’re PEOPLE. we’d like to be treated as PEOPLE. I have been told I wud be a great shrink/counselor/therapist. all i want is a therapist/shrink who specializes in wrist cutting.

  • Hayley Moses July 13th, 2010 at 2:20 AM #32

    Very Concerned Mom, what is it that your daughter is dealing with? I would like to know. I will not let out any info but you will know its done when she says: “I feel better now” or “I don’t want to do this anymore” or something of the sort, even then whats wrong might come back(i have experience) and so its best to keep her going to meetings with her shrink for at least three months to the point where she wants to talk to YOU about it. don’t ask her if she wants to talk. trust me she’ll come to you. i’m not ready to talk to my parents yet but, i will one day. my dad exposed my healing wrist to our neighbour while we were at the garbage dump place. so its not likely i’ll tell him. but if your daughter wants help, then let her keep going and then one day she might say: “I dont need to go here anymore.”
    Just hope. Just hope. Michelle.

  • Eleanore Duyndam July 25th, 2010 at 3:14 AM #33

    I would add that it’s also very important that the counselor expresses confidence in the client’s ability to resolve their own conflict. It can be very destructive to spend time with a counselor that doubts you or that adds concern to your situation.

  • Layne Stoops, Spokane Counselor July 26th, 2010 at 10:40 AM #34

    As a therapist it is great to see a post like this. Finding the right therapist for the client is a big task, that can appear overwhelming to any client. I’ve been studying the Ivey’s approach to a strengths based model of therapy for the past several months. What I find to be most helpful when conducting the initial interview with a new client is addressing what strengths they can draw on as an individual while paralleled by their issues being worked on in therapy.

  • Brian July 26th, 2010 at 2:34 PM #35

    This are some great things to look into when looking for this type of help. This was a very helpful post.

  • Magnet July 26th, 2010 at 3:20 PM #36

    I have never had to pick a therapist or counselor but If I had to I would make sure that we could make progress in a consistent span of time.

    I know most get paid by the hour and they will take as long as possible. Just a thought.

    Am I wrong?

  • John Schinnerer Ph.D. July 27th, 2010 at 2:54 PM #37

    I enjoyed your criteria for finding an excellent therapist. I agree that these are all necessary to identifying a qualified and capable mental health worker.

    In my experience as an emotion expert, I’ve found that one of the impediments to appropriate mental health care is anxiety for those of us who have anxiety as part of our make up.

    This keeps many people from finding any help at all – regardless of quality.

    Finding reliable ways to reduce anxiety will allow more people to access quality providers.

    My belief is that many of the scientifically-proven tools to turn down the volume on anger, anxiety and depression can be effectively taught via online free anger management courses, web-based anxiety disorder treatment classes, and concrete skills on mitigating depression via the Internet.

    I’m currently offering free online anger management classes to men, simply to get the word out there that it’s a manageable challenge. My experience has been that tens of thousands of men are actively using this approach to turn down the volume on negative, destructive emotions and create happier, more successful lives. This has a ripple effect in that it helps the men individually, and everyone with whom they come into contact – spouses, children, coworkers and others.

    We must make use of all the resources available to us to ensure high quality care for all. This is one such avenue.

    In friendship,

    John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
    Guide to Self

  • Hypnotherapy Bristol July 28th, 2010 at 3:50 AM #38

    Many good points are raised here. I do agree though that it is incredibly important that the therapist and client are able to create a good bond that will help the therapeutic process. If there is a sense of unease or severe lack of rapport, then it’s like banging your head against a brick wall.

  • Amanda Ford July 28th, 2010 at 7:15 AM #39

    Some great points. Too many people simply pick the first therapist they find. The idea of “interviewing” them never crosses their mind.

  • Mark July 29th, 2010 at 7:31 AM #40

    The information you have provided here is invaluable and would be of great help and use to many of my friends. I will defiantly be referring my friends to your site. Do you have a quick checklist for the 14 questions criteria to select a Counselor or Therapist? This would be a good tool to help quickly narrow down a counselor or therapist who is right for you.

  • Devin Y. Scannura July 29th, 2010 at 11:47 PM #41

    Excellent resource, especially the distinction between a therapist who has taken a weekend course and a counselor who has a graduate degree.

  • David Hawkins EI July 30th, 2010 at 12:43 AM #42

    Great article. Taking the concept of interviews to a scenario where you’ll be completely opening yourself up to someone seems to be a no brainer now. I had a friend who went to a therapist and instinctively, my friend simply didnt trust this therapist — needless to say the problem wasn’t solved.

    I think there has to be a natural kinship, a natural connection. The kind that you ‘feel’ after first meeting. They do say that 70% of our communication is in body language — tone is another important one. And new studies have found that we truly are wired to connect. If a little thing called trust is lacking, there will be no resolution.

    I think there is a shift going on now. We need to pay alot more attention to emotions — I.Q has been the leading factor in the past. I.E I’ve got a harvard degree and royal blood, I’m the best there is… But those accolades don’t necessary mean success. A young patient may get better results through talking to a young therapist who has recently graduated from a much lesser university.

    We are irrational by nature. I read a book recently called ‘Predictably Irrational’. In you’re interested in the human mind I definitely recommend it to you.

  • Ivy August 2nd, 2010 at 7:04 AM #43

    The list mentioned are all essential qualifications of a good therapist. But most important is the therapist and patient should be comfortable working with each other and the trust is steadily placed between them.

    A little doubt on the part of the patient regarding the integrity and capability will just add additional anxiety to patients and all the therapy efforts will just become a waste of time. Should this be the case, it is better to end the therapy.

  • yogi August 2nd, 2010 at 3:02 PM #44

    There are a lot of important considerations pointed out here. Having some one you can trust is a critical factor for stepping into the unknown.

  • Khai August 4th, 2010 at 11:06 PM #45

    I believe that referrals from friends and testimonials from others will play a strong role in reinforcing the efforts of a good therapist. Imagine if your friend recommended you to someone, you would feel much more at ease compared to going straight for the next counseller with all the credentials, no?

    For example, you could ask a friend who used to be hot tempered where he went for anger management therapy, as you can see the benefits in him.

  • Tom August 7th, 2010 at 7:41 AM #46

    Is there any online one on one or group therapy sessions available for married guys dealing with ssa?

  • Anita Narayan - Personal Transformation Expert August 7th, 2010 at 6:08 PM #47

    As someone who has worked in psychiatry and personally used counselling in my earlier years, as well as observed practice I have some varied comments.

    Firstly I agree that it should be made clear what the philosophy and style of the prospective counsellor is along with what they profess to provide by way of process and solutions.

    On point 6 above I would add something different here, in that I think that interdependence is what should be taught in life. Sole independence can cause isolation and lack of trust when taken to the extreme, and of course dependence can cause the opposite. For me a healthy balance is when we are taught to develop inner resources holistically, yet interact and learn from others.

    Also any therapy that emphasises one domain and denies the holistic context of human beings needs to come with a footnote of caution and a thorough explanation of its strengths and limitations.

    In similar vein I think that counsellors should have their own personal development plan which may or may not involve therapy but does involve personal growth

    Just my pennies worth

    Best wishes
    Anita

  • Derek August 13th, 2010 at 11:37 PM #48

    You definitely need a doc you feel comfortable with, or it won’t do you any good to see them.

  • susan ross August 16th, 2010 at 11:12 AM #49

    an essential “telling detail” of a good therapist (add to list in article) is that the client goes away from the initial contact or meeting with the feeling of getting more back than they were required to give. Those initial contacts require disclosure and re-experiencing the problem to some degree. My requirement for myself is to listen with discernment and care, communicate at least one true thing with certainty and, based on that, offer hope.

  • self improvement seeker August 23rd, 2010 at 1:12 PM #50

    I would advise everyone not to neglect Item 14. And I would encourage anyone who was treated in an unprofessional manner by a therapist to report it to the appropriate advisory boards. It will make you feel better and it can really make a difference for other people who are considering using this therapist.

  • psychiatrist September 15th, 2010 at 6:28 PM #51

    these are very good points you’ve presented. It is very important that a patient is comfortable with his psychiatrist and feel safe and secure. Thanks for sharing.

  • Counseling Perth October 1st, 2010 at 7:15 AM #52

    From my experience I have found that the best therapist is the one that takes the time to find out what individual problems you have or things that you would like to improve about yourself.
    Traditional psychotherapy is no longer the only program one can take with a therapist. Positive organization of one’s life can be just as effective.
    These factors are important in choosing a therapist, so choose a therapist that offers alternatives and different ways of dealing with your situation.

  • psychiatrist cleveland October 11th, 2010 at 12:00 AM #53

    It’s important to choose a good counselor. The points that posted in this article are helpful in choosing a right therapist. Great article!

  • Davina - healer October 16th, 2010 at 8:13 AM #54

    This is really good information, as therapists we may naturally consider the points you mention but people new to therapy or finding help on their own, will find this checklist an invaluable resource.
    I’ve linked to this post and have bookmarked it too.

  • Julie November 3rd, 2010 at 9:26 AM #55

    What a marvelous site. You cover so many areas and in so much depth and understanding. The whole site is packed with very informative information. And the comments that people leave are outstanding.

  • Dr Sophie Henshaw November 13th, 2010 at 5:48 AM #56

    This is a very concise list of things to help you find the right therapist for you. As a therapist myself, I invite new and possible new clients to question me about these points. It is important for the therapist and client to build up a good relationship based on trust and understanding, keeping within the ethical boundaries of a therapeutic relationship.

  • Rev. Della November 27th, 2010 at 8:21 AM #57

    I think that finding the right therapist for you is critical to the healing process. When I was in my teens, I went into therapy with a very good male therapist. I felt very comfortable with him, but then he left the clinic to go to a school across the country in order to study for his doctorate.

    I was then assigned to another male therapist, who from the very first session, asked me such person questions, that I felt incredibly uncomfortable with him. I worked with him for a few sessions and then I realized that it was never going to work for me. The good thing about this clinic is that the director interviewed me to find out why I wanted to switch therapists. He then assigned me to a wonderful female therapist who I worked with for five years. She was very compassionate and she helped me get my life on track. Her therapeutic style was Freudian, which is what I needed then. However, that style would not work for me now.

    I recently went to see another therapist who is trained in CBT. Since I am healthier emotionally, and I am also very goal oriented, this was the best type of counseling for me. He was also very caring and compassionate.

    I think it is not only important to find the right fit in terms of personality match, it is also important to find the right therapeutic approach based on where you currently are in your life. Then you have the greatest chance of having a positive outcome.

  • counselor January 17th, 2011 at 9:58 PM #58

    I’m glad that you emphasized the importance of the relationship with your #1. And I like how you put it. If you can’t feel comfortable with your counselor, it’s unlikely that you’re going to gain a lot from your visits.

  • Delia February 13th, 2011 at 4:48 PM #59

    This is a great post – thank you! I had two therapists, and both had high credentials just as they should according to your advice.
    This article is a tremendous resource for anyone trying to find a good therapist!

  • Crystal February 16th, 2011 at 9:50 PM #60

    Thank you for the information about how to choose a counselor. It is different to just want advice or a different perspective as oppose to a therapist. You clearly defined the difference.

  • mannie February 18th, 2011 at 4:23 PM #61

    I think there is a shift going on now. We need to pay alot more attention to emotions — I.Q has been the leading factor in the past. I.E I’ve got a harvard degree and royal blood, I’m the best there is… But those accolades don’t necessary mean success. A young patient may get better results through talking to a young therapist who has recently graduated from a much lesser university.

  • Neil @ Acupuncture Bristol March 24th, 2011 at 7:02 AM #62

    I think that this is something that people can often struggle with, so many thanks for sharing this important information and advice

  • Don's Behaviour Problem In Children Blog April 26th, 2011 at 11:48 AM #63

    thank you for the valuable checklist. My son has adhd and I ahve tried several counselors. I don’t want him on medication because I believe that if can come up with a strategy to slow down and organize his thoughts he will be able to cope with ADHD for a lifetime.

  • ella October 25th, 2011 at 3:13 AM #64

    Choosing your counselor or therapist is not easy as a b c. it is hard because you want to have someone that can satisfy you, someone that you feel at ease with, and the one that suits your needs. You really have to be that careful so that you will not regret choosing them. You see, decisions like this is like where to enroll your child as they go through education and discipline, would it be the nearest school, a boarding school or a military school? It is hard but it must all be put in mind that every decision made is crucial.

  • anxy December 16th, 2011 at 12:27 PM #65

    I have been looking for one for ages to treat my stress and depression. Despite the fact that I’ve visited several and have liked or benefited from none, I feel the fault lies with me in not being able to distinguish between a good or a bad therapist. Your article has certainly given me a new hope or rather opened my eyes to new ideas.

  • Corpy January 5th, 2012 at 5:37 AM #66

    After having my baby I had severe depression and went through a number of different therapists. I finally found one that I could really relate to and I think a tehrapist of the same sex can really make a difference.

  • Couples Counseling January 27th, 2012 at 1:39 PM #67

    Great resource. I always encourage people to interview multiple therapists in order to get a sense of whether the fit is good or not.

  • Neil K January 31st, 2012 at 1:41 PM #68

    Really good points. In my experience most therapists would fail at a lot of these points. And most clients don’t think about things like this at all. Thanks very much for sharing!

  • Stand Up Strong! February 1st, 2012 at 4:41 PM #69

    Right on point! I concur that when people are seeking the best care, it is wise to make sure you feel comfortable with the person who is providing the care to you. I had a therapist who by the third visit started to make me feel uncomfortable for some reason – my gut told me something didn’t feel right. I changed therapists since, and am so happy I did seek out another therapist. I mean, I AM paying for it, ya know…

  • JANET JOHNSON April 5th, 2012 at 2:28 PM #70

    Just wondering how I can find a psychiatrist that has lots of experience dealing with PTSD. I have just been diagnosed with that since my near death experience. When it ‘hits’ me it is like I am dyeing.

    I really need someone to help me through this. Any suggestions?

    Thanks

  • admin April 5th, 2012 at 2:33 PM #71

    @ Janet. You can do an advanced search for a therapist who treats PTSD here: http://www.goodtherapy.org/advanced-search.html

    Under the “Concern” drop down menu select “Post Traumatic Stress”

  • Esther Coble April 30th, 2012 at 11:49 AM #72

    my boyfriend needs help finding a psychiatrist see he is bipolor he try to kill him self with some pulls he is schaizophnic,depressed, anxiatiy, precancer, to his throat sleepacma, asma, COPD, He realy needs help. But he has medicare Please Help him and me from stressing see I work 12 hours pm and He’s at home by himself. He just came out of a Hospital but He needs to See a psychiarst to talk to one

  • Brian May 6th, 2012 at 12:22 PM #73

    It took me a long time to find a therapist when I was suffering from depression – mostly because of the depression. Catch 22. There are some good tips in your blog that I’ll use if I ever have to seek therapy again.

  • Theo Bernard May 9th, 2012 at 5:16 PM #74

    Finding a therapist you can trust is not an easy task. You bring up quite a few good questions we can ask to make ourselves and them more comfortable. Sometimes you have little say however if your spouse insists on a certain therapist such as in a couples therapy

  • Therapist Manhatten July 2nd, 2012 at 9:37 AM #75

    Great advice! I agree with Theo you did bring up great questions to ask a potential therapist and while you may hear good things about certain therapist don’t get discouraged. Different people respond to different types of people.

  • Counselling Au December 15th, 2012 at 11:26 PM #76

    While the US has some fantastic online resources in the mental health sector Australia is only just starting to see the benefit of providing mental health services online for easy access.

  • Calen April 15th, 2013 at 6:49 PM #77

    Wow. 30 years of seeking help, off and on, and not one therapist has ever done #3. There has never, not even once, been any suggestion that therapy would ever end.

    Is this just your fantasy of how therapy should be?

    Too bad I didn’t find this site years and years ago. I’d almost given up hope that any good therapists even exist.

    Good ones are so rare, that I have given up hope of finding one I could afford. Too many abusive therapists. It hurts too much to try to find help. It makes one too vulnerable.

    Originally came here looking for how and where to report a crisis center that refuses to help male rape victims, just abuses them, telling them they know of resources to help them, but no matter how much you beg and plead and cry, ask dozens of times, they just ask again “are you sure you want to know this?”

    Too bad there is no “do no harm” oath in this profession.

  • Amy Flaherty, LPE-I, RPT May 10th, 2013 at 9:22 AM #78

    Thanks for this detailed and informative post. I think you hit all the major ones about how to know a good counselor. For several years now, I have told my clients my theoretical orientation and then what they can expect from me. I tell them that I hope to work myself out of a job and that its our job together to figure out what is best for them- I’m not an advice giver. I definitely take some of this and provide it as a resource for new therapists. I have found that treating people like PEOPLE instead of diagnoses is one of the major keys to connecting with clients.

  • cerpen cinta June 24th, 2013 at 8:54 AM #79

    I am now wanting to continue my training to become a therapist (a little confused between ‘psychologist’ or ‘Counselor’), maybe even some day a doctor. If I am really serious about it, should I aim for an MA or would a diploma be enough? Can anyone in the profession tell me if there is a big divide between the titles ‘diploma’, ‘MA’, or ‘Doctorate’? Thanks, much appreciated!

  • Joyce Ramos July 25th, 2013 at 2:11 AM #80

    Most of the time, people search for counselor when they are unable to solve some problem by themselves. Especially this kind of cases usually takes place at different family matters. A lot of family counselors are helping a lot of couple to continue with their living happily.

  • Brenda September 6th, 2013 at 8:40 PM #81

    My kids therapist that a Judge court ordered them to see, because they were refusing to see their father.(due to his drinking and drug issues) tried to trick my daughter who is 16, by hiding her father in her office. My daughter refused to go in, so the therapist called the Judge and the Judge threatened me with jail if I do not make my daughter see her father.

  • payer services October 11th, 2013 at 3:02 AM #82

    check thier certification and previous treatments…

  • Ann October 30th, 2013 at 1:54 PM #83

    Brenda, That sounds so wrong. Please let her know not all counselors would behave in this way. Clearly this counselor wants to please the judge. You should report that counselor to his/her licensing body. If you are the one paying for this, you should insist on selecting the therapist yourself.

  • Ann October 30th, 2013 at 2:05 PM #84

    And just my non-professional opinion, but I think if she can see her father in a safe, supervised environment for a preset amount of time, you should encourage her to do it. Unless he physically abused her. She doesn’t have to pretend to be happy about it or to like him. She just has to make an effort to talk. It’s a big burden to go through life avoiding your father. It’s a much more useful skill set to learn to set appropriate limits than to avoid things entirely. Just my 2 cents.

  • Therapist. January 24th, 2014 at 2:29 AM #85

    I agree with you, its easy to find a good counselor, butits difficult to find a right one. Thanks for sharing such informative post, it will certainly help the people to find the best treatment for their health issues.

  • Gerald Sheridan February 13th, 2014 at 9:01 PM #86

    The criteria to find out a good therapist may vary a bit regarding what kind of therapist you are looking for. It is obvious that the qualities of a marriage counselor and a addict counselor. But overall there are some common qualities which indicates the quality of a good counselor which were described in details here. Enjoyed the post very much. :)

  • Malchasel April 8th, 2014 at 11:49 AM #87

    If a therapist get upset because the patient lies when the therapist believed he was making a break through and after discovering the untruth, states that maybe is the patient is not bipolar but, the person a little mental retarded , does not have the mental facilities to understand, and is the person social security benefits for their condition. What is your thoughts???

  • Rudy April 19th, 2014 at 2:00 PM #88

    I just had my girlfriend of many years lie to me and just kept lying. I didn’t do anything to cause this. I promise. Then she wouldn’t talk to me or text me. I am an emotional wreck and need to seek counseling. I think I would feel better talking with a female counselor so that I could try and understand her side of the story. What do you think?

  • Shelly May 4th, 2014 at 5:49 AM #89

    I can related somewhat. I am in great turmoil after forcing myself to sabatoge a union with a man I loved more then anyone ever in my life. He was lying to me. We were engaged but he was married and with four kids. Trying to convince me that he was the love of my life and really married a bad ape and was going to leave and marry me. But of course the story kept switching around the deeper the relationship got. I feel wrecked emotionally and even mentally from the game that he played with my heart and my life. In the end I did things to ruin the untion just to get free from it but I still feel like I just cut off my own let to get out of a friggen bear trap and I wonder if it was even worth it or if I just shoulda stayed and died in it. Hurting like hell.

  • Danniel Brooks May 15th, 2014 at 1:02 PM #90

    I was scared of going to therapy because of the stigma it carries, but now I´m proud to say I have gone to Life Focus and found the perfect therapist for me. I tell everyone to check them out at lifefocusfl.com/ when they comment on my improved mood and outlook on life. This counselling has really had a positive impact on my life, and I will continue to attend.

  • Mercy D May 22nd, 2014 at 6:08 PM #91

    Many thanks Getty! We won’t wait to get started!

  • Senaida May 29th, 2014 at 2:28 PM #92

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  • Christine B. June 29th, 2014 at 8:48 AM #93

    Looking for a therapist who specialize in your problem makes a difference. Psychotherapy would be a great help. Thanks for sharing this informative blog.

  • Bella July 5th, 2014 at 9:17 PM #94

    Having a hard time in relationships due to abandonment issues. Recommendations in Los Angeles?

  • Joel July 16th, 2014 at 10:37 PM #95

    I think this is among the most vital info for me. And i am glad reading your article.
    But want to remark on some general things, The website style is great,
    the articles is really great : D. Good job, cheers

  • Becca2014 August 12th, 2014 at 12:58 AM #96

    I am looking for an experienced therapist in the Charlotte, nc area with experience treating codependency, relationship addiction. I am agnostic and do not want a therapist with a religious-focused, influenced practice.

  • Emilia Snow August 12th, 2014 at 9:40 AM #97

    If you would like to consult with mental health professional, please feel free to return to our homepage, http://www.goodtherapy.org/, and enter your zip code into the search field to find therapists in your area. If you’re looking for a counselor that practices a specific type of therapy, or who deals with specific concerns, you can make an advanced search by clicking here: http://www.goodtherapy.org/advanced-search.html

    Once you enter your information, you’ll be directed to a list of therapists and counselors who meet your criteria. From this list you can click to view our members’ full profiles and contact the therapists themselves for more information. You are also welcome to call us for assistance finding a therapist. We are in the office Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Pacific Time; our phone number is 888-563-2112 ext. 1.

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