The Dos and Don’ts of Finding the Right Therapist

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Studies show that the COVID-19 crisis and the recession that followed affected many people’s mental health in significant ways. It also established new challenges for people suffering from mental disorders and substance abuse even before the pandemic. At the height of the public health crisis, about four in ten adults in the United States reported symptoms of depression and anxiety—a massive jump from the one in ten adults who reported the same symptoms from the first half of 2019.

There’s no denying that on top of battling a virus, people across the globe are also combating another kind of pandemic: the deterioration of our mental health. This is why if people are privileged enough to have access to quality mental health services, they shouldn’t hesitate to do so. Unfortunately, finding the right therapist is not always a cut-and-dried process. Here are some tips and pointers for finding the right one for your needs.

Do find out which type of mental health service you need

One of the safest things you can do when looking for a therapist or a counselor is by asking your primary care provider for recommendations. Tell your doctor about your symptoms, and allow them to help you determine if you need to see a counselor, psychotherapist, or psychiatrist. Here are some key differences between the three:

  • Counselors typically help clients solve problems. Some examples include spiritual direction and financial planning. In this course of treatment, counselors only offer guidance and support, and it is up to the individual to figure out how to better manage their life and pivot to their adversity or change. There are grief counselors, substance abuse counselors, marriage counselors, and many others.
  • Psychotherapists, on the other hand, have a much more intensive and longer-term course of treatment. Psychotherapists aim to help patients understand their chronic physical and emotional pain.
  • Psychiatrists are doctors, which means they are qualified to prescribe medication if needed.

You may find that all three types of mental health professionals may have some form of overlap in their processes. Still, they will differ in the duration of treatment and ability to prescribe you medication or medical ways to address the problem.

Do your research

Here are some steps you can take to ensure that the mental health professional you’re eyeing is the real deal:

therapy session

  • Ask for reviews and recommendations. If you know people who have undergone therapy or counseling and found that it worked for them, ask more about their experience with the mental health professional they worked with.
  • Check their licensing and qualifications. Most mental health professionals will have their qualifications and diplomas hung on the walls of their offices, so don’t hesitate to take a closer look.
  • Inspect their clinics or offices. Do they have some technologies that make their operations smoother? Check how they bill their patients—do they have a process like a behavioral health billing system for patients who need assistance? Legitimate mental health professionals go above and beyond in ensuring that their clinics and processes are safe spaces.

Don’t underestimate rapport

A study by the Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy found that the therapy relationship accounts for how the patient or client will recover. The whole point of therapy is to regain some form of safety and connection and find someone who will help you achieve your goals in healing and recovery.

Thus, the mental health professional and the patient need to stand and like each other—especially since the treatment will take so much talking. Here are some important considerations you need to take into account when choosing a therapist:

  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Age

It’s not about being discriminatory in your decision. It’s about finding somebody you will feel most comfortable spending an hour of your week talking to about your innermost thoughts and feelings.

Don’t give up too quickly

And lastly, don’t be too quick to throw in the towel after one or two bad experiences with a mental health professional. While it may be wonderful to find the best person for the job on your first try, it’s not always the case for everybody. One bad experience does not negate all the evidence that points to therapy and counseling’s effectiveness, so don’t give up and keep trying until you find the best one for you and your needs.

The road to healing may be fraught with challenges, but its aims and goals are always worth the fight. If you have the opportunity to see a mental health professional, allow yourself that journey to see a brighter you on the other side.

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