The first question I ask potential clients is what their previous experiences have been in counseling. Over time, I have discovered a growing theme.
The popular response indicates that finding a good therapist is a difficult task. Clients often recall shady encounters in therapy and of past therapists. Believe it or not, many clients tell me that their therapist seemed pushy and unfriendly (an oxymoron to say the least).
As the President-Elect of the Austin AMFT I have been fortunate enough to befriend many incredible and gifted therapists. These therapists are active, engaged, and accountable to their professional growth and to the experience and success of their clients. The difficulty is finding them.
When searching Psychology Today for Austin therapists within your zip code, in a matter of seconds, you will access over 1,000 therapist profiles – all just a click away. The challenge of finding the best therapist for you then becomes a needle in a haystack.
To save you time and angst, here are a few things to consider…
What’s their vibe?
It is fair game to request an initial consultation. Most therapists will do this for free either on the phone or in person. These consultations are designed to assess for fit. For the therapist, they hope to gain a clear picture of the client’s need to ensure that they are skilled in the areas they are seeking support in. For the client, the goal is to assess for feel. You should leave the consultation feeling supported, listened to, and validated.
If it takes the therapist a long time to get back to you, is short over the phone, rushes the conversation, or is clearly eating lunch while on the call – all signs point to calling the next therapist on your list. If the therapist can’t give you his or her time, why should you give them yours?
Overall, sessions should feel warm, friendly, and relaxed – from a therapist who is genuine, authentic, and respectful.
How will the therapist support me?
The position of the therapist is one of non-judgment. The goal of therapy is to support your healing process and growth. The focus should always be about you and never the therapist. The primary goal of the therapist is to learn as mush as they can about your strengths, family system, and life history.
When interviewing therapists pay attention to how they handle your story, discomfort, and pain. Are they dismissive? Did they minimize your concerns? Or did it feel just right?
Who is the expert in the room?
Research on the effectiveness of therapy has identified the powerful relationship between the therapist and client as critical in predicting positive outcomes. While the therapist may focus on compelling theoretical models, techniques, and interventions, research suggests that the therapist-client relationship is the most important variable of therapeutic success.
This information is helpful as it explains no matter how decorated a therapist may be, if he or she is not personable, empathetic, respectful, and genuine – their interventions will fall flat.
It is important that the therapist is well trained. They should have extensive knowledge and experience. More importantly however, is how the therapist manages the balance between themselves as the expert and you as the expert of your own life.