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WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A THERAPIST? SOME KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK AND THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR

by | May 26, 2016 | For Everyone

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SO, YOU HAVE FINALLY MADE A DECISION TO DO SOME PERSONAL OR RELATIONSHIP WORK AND YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A THERAPIST. HOWEVER, KNOWING WHERE TO LOOK, AND WHAT TO LOOK FOR, CAN BE CONFUSING. THERE ARE MANY THINGS TO CONSIDER AND I HOPE THIS GUIDE WILL HELP YOU FIND THE RIGHT PERSON FOR YOU.

1. Every province and state has different licensing requirements and structures for professional counsellors or therapists. One of the important considerations is that the person you are going to see is trained and registered with an organization that governs professional practice. Therefore, knowing about the different professional associations that oversee the standards of clinician’s practice in your geographic area is important. For example, in British Columbia counsellors and therapists can be registered with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors.

Why is this important? First, Colleges and Associations set out standards for their members and outline basic as well as ongoing education requirements. They have clear guidelines for conduct and consumers have the right to submit concerns, should they arise.

Second, these organizations often offer directories of qualified professionals, which you can search according to different requirements such as specialty area, approach to therapy, or geographic area.

2. It is also important that the clinician you see has liability insurance. This is something that you can ask about. Most clinicians share this information during the initial appointment when intake and consent forms are filled in. You should have easy access to this information, including the clinician’s registration number(s).

3. Clinicians who provide therapy can come from different educational backgrounds. Typically, they have either counselling or clinical psychology training, or social work. People who offer therapy through private practice settings generally have a Masters degree whereas others have a PhD.

Professionals are also expected to continue with their education throughout their professional lives, sometimes doing specialized training, attending conferences, and reading books and journals about current advances in their field.

Asking a clinician about the theories and approaches that she/he uses can be very helpful, even if you aren’t sure what kind of therapy you are looking for. A therapist should be able to articulate what theories most influence their work and share with you how their approach can assist you with your needs.

4. Linked to knowing the clinician’s approach to therapy, asking about whether the person utilizes a short term or long-term approach is important. There are brief or solution-focused therapy models, which can be helpful for specific problems that lend themselves to setting clear goals. Examples include: situational problems that can respond to a direct approach, mild depression and anxiety, or support through a recent, uncomplicated loss.

Other problems require a longer-term approach and are difficult to confine to a set number of sessions. Examples include, trauma, dealing with chronic pain and illness, moderate to severe depression and anxiety, eating disorders, or grief that is complicated by historical unresolved loss.

5. People are often shy about asking what a clinician’s fees are and what payment options are available. However, it is important to know this. For most, therapy take a commitment time and finances, so making sure you are able to manage both is very important.

If you have access to some funding for therapy, you may need to find this out on your own. For example, some employers offer coverage through extended medical plans or other means. However, generally, people pay the clinician directly.

6. Knowing where a therapist sees their clients is also important. Most therapy is done face to face and deciding how far you are willing to travel will be a part of your decision. This is going to be a significant relationship and some people decide they are willing to go further to find the right person.

However, some therapists offer sessions remotely or by telephone. If sessions are conducted using web-based platforms it is important you ask questions about your privacy and security. Also, the clinician needs to provide you with a written document explaining any limitations that may exist. For example, some technologies offer encryption and other measures to ensure no one can access the call whereas other virtual meeting spaces offer no such assurances and you run the risk of having your private session being seen by others.

7. Finally, of equal, if not more importance is your felt-sense of comfort and connection with the clinician.

You should be able to have a conversation with the clinician either on the phone or in person to determine whether you feel comfortable enough to make an initial appointment. Often, the above topics are covered in that first contact.

Sometimes it takes more than one meeting to establish whether you feel the therapist is the right fit for you. Some helpful questions to ask yourself:

Did you feel heard and understood by this person? Did she/he answer your questions or provide an invitation to do so at a later time? Were they warm and caring? Or, direct and short? Which approach suites your style and needs?

Sometimes it takes time before the relationship develops however you need to feel comfortable enough to invest some of your resources in order to do so.

In future blog posts, I will be sharing some of the theories and approaches I use in my therapy and consulting practice. Stay tuned.

CONTACT ME FOR A FREE NO OBLIGATION 15-MINUTE PHONE CONVERSATION TO DETERMINE IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO BOOK YOUR FIRST APPOINTMENT