Finding a Therapist Who is a Good Fit for You or Your Child
Therapists sometimes forget what everyone else does not yet know about therapy, just as plumbers forget that not everyone knows what the P-trap is. This page presents a guide for looking for and interviewing therapists, with special sections at the end for looking for a gender specialist or neurodiversity specialist. I welcome your questions about my work and training and invite you for a free 20-minute phone consultation. If phone calls don't work for you can text me and we can arrange a text chat. If my practice is full, and I have given you referrals, please take these questions with you as you interview therapists.
How Therapists are Similar to Each Other
Therapists are quite different. Most are similar in that they work alone in offices, providing “sessions” that last between 45-60 minutes, and generally occur weekly, (though twice weekly, or every other week sessions are not uncommon). All licensed therapists have completed graduate school training, thousands of hours of supervised internship training, comprehensive exams, and yearly continuing education requirements. They are all held to legal and ethical requirements regarding their work with clients and their practice management. Their degrees may be Master's or Ph.D.s in psychology or clinical social work.
How Therapists are Different from Each Other
Thereapists are quite different in personality, in areas they focus on, and in theoretical orientation — meaning the lens through which they see problems and solutions. They are different in culture and in personal experience, and all of these differences will matter to you. Maybe you need to find a therapist who shares some social location experiences with you or maybe other characteristics are more important. A good therapist-client relationship is one in which you will, soon enough, feel okay about sharing some deep and difficult experiences in your life.
Checking Websites and Getting Referrals
Reading websites is helpful, as is consulting friends for referrals. Eventually, though, it’s going to take a phone call, an online chat, or an introductory session to know whether a therapist feels like a good fit for you. In this audo, text or in-person session, it’s helpful to have a few questions for the therapist.
Availability: Location, Timing and Communication
Is the therapist's availability, and their level of flexibility in scheduling going to work for you? Do they see people at the frequency intervals that work for you? How do they handle times they are away for vacations and training? What is their policy around returning phone calls, or other communication? Do their fees or insurance billing work for you?
Experience and Strategies
Ask the therapist how they work with the issues you or your child bring to therapy. You may not know for sure why you are coming — just that you feel you need some help. That’s fine. Ask them how they work with that. This is a good time to ask about any specific training or ongoing consultation or reading they do, as well as how they envision the course of therapy. Questions about training and style are especially important in areas, such as transgender issues, eating disorders, and neurodiverity, which require more ongoing training and collaboration with other health and social service professionals. Different therapists use different treatment strategies. Check to see that the therapist's approach to your issue, whether it be neurodiversity-related challenges, gender identity issues, anxiety or relationship issues, feels good to you. Often this takes a full session or more to find out, but you will get a hint of it in a phone conversation or website review.
How does the prospective therapist respond to questions of being of a different culture or social experience than you, whether this be race, ethnicity, age, ability, gender, sexual orientation, class? How do they show cultural sensitivity?
If you are looking for a therapist who works with transgender and gender non-conforming issues, I encourage you to visit Ryan Sallan's guide on finding a gender specialist. Ask me these questions. Ask any gender specialist these questions!
How do you feel with the therapist? This may be the most important consideration, and is unique to each individual. Check in with your heart, your gut and your mind. Sometimes it takes several sessions to know. Sometimes you know right away. If something doesn’t feel comfortable, please bring it up with your therapist. They usually welcome your feedback and may be able adjust their style to meet you better.