Choosing a Psychotherapist

In order for therapy to be successful you will need to share intimate thoughts and details of you life with him or her. Look for a therapist

  • With whom you will feel comfortable and safe
  • With whom you will trust with your secrets
  • Who can be supportive when you feel vulnerable

Consider the level of support that want from your therapist. Some therapist are more emotionally engaging while others are more business-like in their interactions—what balance of these two styles is right for you?

It is important that your therapist be someone with whom you not only feel comfortable, but also one with whom you are willing to challenge yourself. Look for a therapist who

  • Can motivate you
  • Can challenge and confront you in a respectful way
  • Is directive or collaborative at the appropriate level for you

Consider what type of relationship might motivate you. Some therapists use a great deal of guidance and instruction while others rely on self-motivation of their clients—which is the approach that is right for you?

Therapists will occasionally lead therapy in a direction other than one that is important to you and will occasionally make assumptions or statements that do not fit for you. Look for a therapist

  • With whom you can negotiate your therapeutic relationship
  • Who will work with you to set the pace and direction of therapy
  • Who incorporates the uniqueness of your experience within her or his level of clinical experience

Consider what characteristics of a therapist or a therapeutic relationship would create an environment in which you felt you could express control or disagreement. Some therapists expect you to guide the work while others therapist assume greater responsibility for guiding the work—how would you like to influence the direction or changes in your therapy?

Different therapists have different levels of experience in working with different psychological and personal issues and populations. Look for a therapist who

  • Has experience working with the issue for which you are seeking assistance
  • Is competent in working with persons with your race/ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation
  • Help you feel comfortable as a member of non-traditional minority:
    • BDSM

    • Drag or transgender
    • Gothic or Emo
    • Body modification (piercing and tattoo)
    • Medieval and renaissance reenactment community

The relationship that you develop with your therapist will most likely be an intense one. There are certain qualities in the relationship and in your therapist that you should seek out in order to have the most successful experience and gain the greatest benefit. If the relationship is not working for you, you should discuss what you would like to be different in your relationship with your therapist and the possibility of changing to a therapist who can offer you a relationship that is a better fit for you.

Consider what psychological or personal issues are likely to be the focus of your therapy. Consider how your membership in a group that may have traditionally been misunderstood might affect your relationship with a therapist. What experiences of a therapist will help you feel understood?

Finally, there are practical issues to consider. How much scheduling flexibility are you going to need? Do you need evening or weekend appointments? What are the therapist’s fees and payment policies? Does he or she take your insurance? Is her or his location convenient for you? Is having childcare available during session important to you? Whatever your needs, make an educated decision when entering psychotherapy.

“In my early professionals years I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?”
—Carl Rogers