How to Choose a Therapist

When it comes to choosing the right therapist, there is a lot to consider. Many individuals who enter into therapy may not be aware of the several variables that can affect the outcome of that intervention–such as the theoretical orientation of the therapist and the rapport the client has with their therapist.

So, choosing the right therapist who will meet your needs remains an important step in the therapeutic process. Below are four noteworthy factors to consider when searching for a therapist.

Choosing a Therapist

Credentials. To begin, it remains important to a professional therapist to have the proper credentials, licensures, degrees, and so on. For example, does your therapist have a background in social work, or does he or she have more of a research-oriented degree such as a Ph.D.? This matters because the type of training and degrees that your therapist has influences how he or she will approach the clinical process. More importantly, the licenses, degrees, and experience your therapist has sets them apart from individuals who may practice therapies and interventions that may not be recognized by state and federal licensing agencies (as a side note, you can verify any PA licensed professional—from acupuncturist to psychologist—here:

Theoretical Orientation. Theoretical orientation answers the question: “What is the underlying theory guiding this therapist’s clinical practice?” There are many, many different theoretical orientations including psychoanalysis, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), mindfulness training, interpersonal, etc. The theoretical orientation of your therapist will surely influence how he or she approaches the therapy process.

Theoretical approaches, too, differ. Although it has fallen out of favor in recent decades, psychoanalysis was once the dominate force in psychology. Its focus is on the resolution of unconscious conflicts that may stem from adverse childhood experiences. Again, this approach has largely been replaced by more scientific-based therapies such as the aforementioned CBT. Finally, asking your therapist what theoretical orientation he or she uses is a good way to have them explain their approach to you.

Rapport. Although it may not seem vital on the surface, the relationship between the therapist and the client is the main predictor of successful outcomes. In fact, there has been an ongoing debate in psychology called the “Dodo effect”. The Dodo effect refers to the claim that all forms of psychotherapy are equally effective—with the largest moderating variable being the relationship between client and therapist. That said, however, the therapist-client rapport is not easily identifiable as, say, credentials or theoretical orientation. Yet it remains vitally important to the process. It remains worth noting, too, that building a strong rapport takes some time, so keep that in mind for the first few sessions.

Reputation. Choose a therapist who is known in his or her field—someone who is a community leader, has the right credentials and practices an effective, science-based therapy. Sometimes, it may take some digging around to locate the best therapist for you, but that search will pay off with the right treatment and interventions.

Why the Right Therapist Matters

Clinical therapy has been shown to be an effective intervention for a number of disorders including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and many others. Once an individual has decided to seek treatment, the next important step is to find the right therapist who, ideally, will aid in one’s recovery.

As discussed, there remain a few, simple criteria to look for when choosing to see a therapist.

To review, it’s important to select a therapist based on his or her credentials because it demonstrates that that therapist has the degrees and licenses to properly do his or her job. Next, a therapist’s theoretical orientation, as discussed, matters as well. In psychology, these “schools” have varied origins and ideas about what works and what does not. There remains no one “better” theoretical approach, but some theories have held up to scientific scrutiny better than others. Next, your rapport with your therapist has impact on the success of the therapeutic process. Finally, your therapist’s reputation can help you decided whether to attend his or her practice.

Brooke Lamberti

Brooke Lamberti is a content writer based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Marywood University, and has prior career experience working in social work and domestic violence advocacy. She has a passion for writing and helping others.

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