Perhaps the hardest part about deciding to participate in therapy is choosing who would be a good fit as your therapist. After all, you will likely be sharing some of your most intimate thoughts and concerns with this person. You want to be sure that they are a good fit! But do you know what factors would contribute to this? Here are 5 questions you may want to consider as you search for this person:
1. How important is it that your therapist match you in characteristics like race, ethnicity, gender presentation or sexual orientation? Research has been consistent in finding that the most important factor in whether or not therapy will be helpful is the quality of the relationship between client and therapist. There is a need to feel “known” by your therapist that helps one to be more vulnerable in the space. If there are particular characteristics about a therapist that you believe will allow you to feel more comfortable and ready to work, then by all means search for that! However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you cannot have a quality therapeutic relationship with someone who doesn’t come in the package you thought you wanted. Many times you may be able to work through things with a therapist who is less like you in ways that you could not have imagined.
2. What type of personality works best with you? Are you someone who needs to be gently nudged into making a change or would you prefer a straight up, no chaser approach? Are you someone who needs lots of structure and activities to help you work through issues or do you prefer processing an issue from multiple perspectives until you land on something that fits. Each of these things will be important to consider as you decide whether a therapist will be a good fit for you. You may be able to get a sense of this from therapists’ websites but it will also be important to ask about these things either during a consultation or during your first appointment.
3. Are you looking for your religious or spiritual beliefs to be incorporated in therapy? One of the reasons that some Black women give for not seeking mental health treatment is the notion that therapy is in some way the antithesis of prayer. This could not be further from the truth! If faith, religion, or spirituality is important to you and you feel like you want a strong faith component to your therapy then you can definitely find a therapist who will be a good match for you. Many therapists would describe themselves as faith-sensitive, which means that they understand the role that faith may play in your life and will be respectful and encouraging of you staying connected to this part of your life. However, therapy that is faith-based will likely be centered around religion or spirituality and may be conducted by someone connected to a faith community, though not always. When looking for faith-based therapy, make sure that the therapist has the appropriate credentials and actually has training in counseling.
4. Do you want to use insurance benefits? Many health insurance plans now have at least some mental health benefits. If you are interested in using your insurance benefits, your first step should be checking the website of your insurance company to found out which therapists in your area are covered. Few things are more frustrating than finally finding a therapist who looks like they will be a great fit, only to find out that they are not covered by your plan. However, this does not mean that you cannot see this person. You will simply have to pay a higher fee to see this therapist. If this is the case, make sure to check with your insurance carrier to see if you have out of network benefits. This may allow you to pay the therapist’s out of pocket fee but then get reimbursed by them later.
5. Are you clear about your therapeutic goals and what you would like to achieve in therapy? Undoubtedly, many will enter therapy with fuzzy goals and only loose ideas about what they would like to accomplish, which is fine. But the clearer you can be about what you would like the outcome of therapy to be, the more equipped you are to choose a therapist who can help you achieve this outcome. You want to be sure to ask about a therapist’s experience and success in working with the issues that you are presenting and their ideas about what might be helpful in your case.
Once you have considered these questions, you will be in an excellent position to begin making some calls. As previously mentioned, if you plan to use health insurance benefits to receive therapy then your carrier’s website will be a great place to start. Another helpful online directory is the Psychology Today Therapist Finder. You may also want to ask your Primary Care Physician, OB/GYN or faith leader for recommendations of therapists.