What Should I Look for in a Therapist?

Deanna Fernandez, MHC

“What should I look for in a therapist?”

This is such a common question, and for good reason, but can be a bit hard to answer. It’s kind of like asking someone “how do your shoes fit?” Therapy is an experience, it’s a relationship between two people that is unique and personal – ultimately you have to step in to feel for yourself.

A good place to start is by identifying what’s important for you to feel open to the experience. This differs for all of us but it’s a way of narrowing the search (and minimizing the pain of sifting through thousands of therapists:

  • Similarities: You’d prefer to share similarities with your therapist, i.e., gender, race, ethnicity, experiences

  • Differences: You’d prefer and appreciate differences, i.e., female wanting to work with a male therapist

  • Location: You have a preference of location, i.e., en route to work or home

  •  Specialty: You specifically want to work on anxiety, depression

  • Education/Training: You’re looking for someone who has training in pre-marital counseling

  • Approach: You’re looking for someone who is engaging, sensitive

When I was searching for a therapist several years ago I shopped around and met with roughly four before I found my fit. My fit boiled down to one thing: feeling. I know, feeling wasn’t listed above but it’s extremely important! You can narrow your search to a few therapists who meet your criteria but how do you then choose one? Here’s where it gets super personal (and maybe a little frustrating) – you have to feel it out. I encourage prospective clients, and even family and friends, to be open to the idea of meeting with more than one therapist so they can feel differences in personalities, styles, etc. 

Unless the therapist is completely out of your comfort zone, I’d say give it about three-four sessions to see how you feel in relation to them and their space. This is totally about “vibing” so pay attention to the exchange of energy and how you’re experiencing them. If you don’t feel you’re connecting, don’t hesitate meeting with someone else! Therapy is an investment in yourself and it’s important for you to feel connected to your therapist – it’s a vital piece of the experience. Even if a friend refers you to their therapist, speaks highly of them and their experience, you will still have to see if you feel connected to the therapist in your own way.

There’s no easy way around finding the right therapist for you, you’ll have to be patient with the process, open to potentially having to meet with a few, and hopeful that you’ll find one you really vibe with.