There's something going on in your life and you think therapy might help, but how in the world do you find a good therapist that you like and will help you? Maybe you feel anxiety or constant worry or maybe you're feeling really down and depressed. First of all, congratulations on taking the first step: making the decision to pursue therapy. If you're new to therapy, just seeing the dozens of types of therapy can feel overwhelming and it can be daunting just trying to figure out where to start. It can be comforting to know that above all, research has shown time and time again that your connection with your therapist is one of the most important aspects of successful therapy. That means that one size doesn't fit all. It also means that what worked for your friend might not seem right for you, and that you might find that there seem to be a few different types of therapeutic approaches that might work for you.
So, how does one find a therapist who's a good fit? The following article is helpful in laying out what to look for and what to expect: https://www.thecut.com/2017/12/a-beginners-guide-to-finding-the-right-therapist.html.
Initial Phone Call
Think about your issues and goals for therapy. During an intake call or initial consultation, the therapist will most likely ask you about these. Think about what you'd like to ask the therapist. For example, you might want to know about their experience working with the issues that are troubling you, or their availability and fees. Maybe you want to know about the therapist's education and credentials. You might want to ask what treatment would look like and how they would approach working with you. Trust your instincts when you speak with the therapist. Do you feel understood and heard? Keep in mind that the initial phone conversation will be just a snapshot of interacting with the therapist and you'll get a much better sense of being heard and understood after the first session.
If you're looking for therapy for your child, you might want to know about the therapist's experience working with children and how much you should be prepared to be a part of treatment. In my experience working with children and parents, the younger the child the more the parent is involved in treatment, often a part of every session. On the other hand, with tweens and teens, parents often play more of a supporting role and may not be a part of every session.
At the end of the first phone call, I will ask the caller if they'd like to schedule an appointment. If the answer is yes then I arrange how to get my intake packet to them (mail or email), and request that they bring it with them to the first session, completed as much as possible. I like to provide the intake packet to my clients before the first session because it allows the first session paperwork to be reduced to a minimum.
Sometimes a therapist will hear about your current issues and decide that you would be better served by a different therapist or different type of therapeutic approach that he or she doesn't offer. If so, the therapist should provide you with referrals.
Your First Appointment
Expect some paperwork at the beginning of your first session. This is called informed consent and consists of fee information, confidentiality information, treatment approach information, and anything else your clinician wants you to know before beginning treatment. You have the right to have copies of this paperwork. If anything confuses you, be sure to ask questions. A good therapist is just as interested in you understanding of how therapy will look as you are in getting helpful therapy.
The remainder of the session is often used as a way to further gather information so the therapist can get a clearer picture of what's going on for you. Many therapists also begin some assessment during the first session (I assess in sessions 1-3) in order to determine a diagnosis, if applicable, and then create a treatment plan.
In my experience, my clients will often notice a significant change or reduction in symptoms after the first few weeks. If after a few sessions you are not feeling a deep enough connection with your therapist to feel free to fully participate in therapy, or the approach just doesn't seem right for you (maybe you're not feeling supported the way you want), bring it up in session. It might be time to tweak the treatment plan or stop and try and something else (either with the same therapist or with someone else). You have the right to stop therapy at any time.
I hope this post has been helpful. Please contact me for further information about my practice in Marin and how I may be of assistance to you.