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Selecting a therapist

Selecting a therapist is very important in making the work successful.  Research has indicated that your relationship with your therapist is one of the more critical factors in determining how successful therapy will be. Aside from cost and insurance network membership, the therapist's services, personal characteristics and their clinical style and approach are all important variables to consider.


What kind of therapy?

First you should decide if you want to see a therapist individually, or if you would want to include a partner or family members in the process, or if you would like to work on issues in a group setting.  Most family therapists are willing to see individuals, but many individual therapists are unwilling to meet with additional family members (except parents of a child in treatment).  Group therapy is often issue-specific (e.g. grief, anger-management, etc) and may be open-ended or fixed-length (e.g. 8 weeks.)  So, you will want to check with a therapist about their approach and services if you are interested in something other than individual therapy.


With whom would you feel comfortable as your therapist?

Consider whether there are personal characteristics that you would prefer in your therapist - Gender? Age?  Cultural background?  Religious affiliation?   If any of these factors would affect your ability to feel comfortable with your therapist, you may want to consider them in making your selection.  In contrast, if your concerns involve a parent or gender-specific individual, having a successful relationship with a therapist of that gender could also be a healing experience.  


What style would you prefer your therapist to use?

A therapist's approach and style may also be very informative in making a choice of therapists.  Would you be more interested in a therapist who is less directive and tends to offer insights? Or would you like a therapist who is more directive and recommends steps and actions to take?  Does a therapist who tells you their impressions and directs treatment appeal to you?  Or would you prefer a therapist who is less directive and refrains from offering their point of view in order for you to come to your own conclusions? 

There is a full continuum of levels of activity and directiveness among therapists and it is helpful to ask about a therapist's style and approach when selecting a therapist. 


For example, you may want to ask:

  • Do you share your thoughts and recommendations?

  • Do you provide homework or assignments between sessions?

  • Are you willing to see us as a couple and individually as needed?

  • How do you decide what are the treatment goals you are working towards?

  • Will you discuss treatment options prior to making a recommendation?

  • To what extent do you incorporate strengths as part of treatment?

  • What is your philosophy about medications? And when do you recommend them?


Good luck in finding a good match for you.

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