Finding the Right Fit

By Amy Brightman, LCSW

Beginning your search for a therapist can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time in therapy. You’ve gotten to the point of realizing it would be helpful to see someone, but the uncertainty of who to see and what the appointment will be like can add another layer of hesitation. Here are a few tips on searching for the right therapist for you:

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again
Finding a therapist is like dating. You might meet the right therapist for you on the first try, but if not, don’t worry, you might have to “shop” around. Every therapist is not the same. There are different approaches, techniques, specialties, and even personalities that can impact your experience. The main priority is to find a therapist who can help you with the areas you'd like to address in therapy. Getting into the how and why is part of finding the right fit.

Share the sharing
Yes, during your first session you will do a lot of the talking so the therapist can begin to understand what brought you in, who you are, what your life has been like, and what you’re life is currently like. With this said, it’s important for you to know about your therapist as well. It’s totally fine to ask your therapist about their work and educational experiences, what their style is like, and how they approach therapy. Are they directive or passive in sessions? Do they work within a specific framework, such as cognitive behavioral therapy? Do they work with specific issues? If a therapist does not share this, feel free to ask. You both are equally trying to understand if this is a good match.

Assess Your Needs
Before your first session, you may be asked to fill out an intake form that will ask questions to get a better understanding of what brings you to therapy and what symptoms you experience. These forms can be particularly helpful for practices so they can match you with a therapist who specializes or is experienced with specific symptoms. If you are not asked to complete initial paperwork, consider these questions for yourself. What do you identify as your presenting problem? For example, if it is anxiety, what does your anxiety look like, feel like, and how does it impact your daily life? It can also be helpful to think about what you respond well to and what you are looking for. For instance, do you respond well to structure and goal setting or do you need more of a supportive, exploratory approach? This isn’t to say that a therapist has one or the other, but rather it’s to think about what you want and need from therapy so that when you find it, you’ll know it.

Make A Commitment
Therapy is a commitment, and if you are unable to make a commitment to your therapy, it will be difficult to see results and benefits. Typically, you can expect to see your therapist once a week. This will help you hold yourself accountable, use skills, and stay active with your goals. Therapy has become more and more accessible recently, particularly with the increase in telehealth platforms that allow therapists to hold sessions even when you’re traveling for work. Therapy is not only a commitment of time, but also of money. If you don’t have in-network benefits, work with your insurance company to find out what out-of-network benefits you have or if a sliding scale can be offered. Some therapists or practices will help you figure out your benefits. At Cobb Psychotherapy, we have experienced staff who will work with you and your insurance company to figure out your benefits.

Discuss Expectations
You will have expectations of your therapist and your therapist will have expectations of you. Discuss what these are so you both are on the same page. Expectations can range from: How do you get in contact with your therapist if you need to? Will there be homework? What are your goals for therapy? Knowing some of these answers will ensure that you and your therapist are working together and approaching therapy as a team effort.

Remember, when sharing your thoughts and feelings with a stranger, it’s completely understandable to feel strange and uncomfortable, but over time your nerves will decrease if you have found a good client-therapist match. Finding that balance of feeling supported and challenged can be a good indication of this. It's worth taking time to find your match so you can feel confident and hopeful about getting optimal results from therapy.

Amy Brightman is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.