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  • Writer's pictureAmy Kay Cole, PhD

How to choose a psychologist or counselor

Updated: Apr 10, 2022

Making the decision to pursue therapy typically comes after a long struggle. Most people don’t jump to calling a therapist after struggling with an issue for a day or two. Instead, they struggle for months, if not years, before seeking professional help for mental health issues. It’s certainly not a failure to pursue professional help. On the contrary, seeking therapy is typically one of the healthiest decisions we can make. The days of viewing therapy as a treatment reserved for severely impaired people are long gone. I have said many times that my clients are some of the highest functioning individuals I know. It is entirely possible to be smart, caring, capable, and motivated while still experiencing struggles with relationships, mood, or anxiety. Many people seek counseling when they’re in an emotionally good place because it’s a safer time to process family of origin issues or past regrets. It’s not uncommon for people to thrive in some areas such as their careers while struggling in other areas such as relationships. I also see people during transitions—having kids, launching kids, retiring.

Some people obtain all the support they need from friends and family members. Some people benefit from contact with clergy or trusted colleagues. Of course, some problems feel so personal, people don’t like to discuss them with coworkers and friends. And there are some problems even our best-intentioned friends don’t have the knowledge or ability to fix. Sometimes we need professional therapists and counselors. The big question is, who on earth do you call for counseling or therapy? Potential clients imagine sharing their deepest worries and concerns, even their failures, with a total stranger and start to get cold feet. While there is some comfort in the knowledge that all therapists provide confidentiality, finding someone with whom you feel comfortable and who feels like a good fit is essential. Referrals from people you trust are a good start. But the feeling one gets in the room with a therapist is more important. You should feel heard, respected, and understood. There might be areas in which you and your therapist disagree, but you should feel comfortable discussing differing viewpoints. You should feel your therapist genuinely wants to understand your perspective and experience. You should feel comfortable that your therapist has the education and experience to address your needs. You have every right to interview your therapist. You have every right to know their educational background, theoretical orientation, and experience in the area you are seeking treatment. A good therapist will be able to explain their theoretical viewpoint in easy to understand language. After you have been in counseling, don’t forget you have the right to switch therapists. If you start seeing a therapist for several sessions and don’t feel a good fit, you have the right to switch to another therapist. Every professional therapist understands the importance of fit and would not be offended with a conversation on finding a therapist with whom you would feel most comfortable.

So, if you are interested in therapy for personal growth or to treat a psychological disorder, read the attached article from the American Psychological Association about choosing a psychologist and open yourself to the experience. Photo by Paolo Nicolello on Unsplash

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