If you google “how to find a good therapist” you’ll get 170 million + results. That’s a lot. Results ranging from well, from everyone, everywhere and virtually every publication. I’m not exactly sure what that says about us. But as someone who has done some serious study in this field of “therapy” (that’d be on the couch side, not the educatin’ side) I wanted to add my name to that 170 million and give you a common sense approach on what to look for.
Since I’ve grown to be more open about my own therapy, I’m often asked how you find a good therapist. You can find a good therapist almost anywhere (a place like BetterHelp is a good place to start) but the truth is, there’s no magic answer.
Finding a good therapist is a little like dating. Sometimes you have to kiss a few frogs before you find your prince or princess (whatever your preference is).
But here are some very simple and key signs you should look for:
- Listening – I can’t tell you how critical this is. I also can’t tell you how many therapists don’t do this. Look for cues like eye contact. If you’re online or on the phone, do they paraphrase what you’ve said back to you? I once had a psychiatrist who was in the twilight of his career – I don’t think he was listening to me simply because he couldn’t HEAR me.
- Empathy – there are a ton of different definitions for this but think of it this way. Do they get what it is you’re going through? They may have different life experiences but that doesn’t mean they aren’t able to understand your situation. And if they’re listening, the empathetic therapist will be able to find an “in” with you in order to help.
- The Check-In – sometimes if you’re in therapy you can get lost in your own jumbled up business and lose sight of the progress that you’ve made. A good therapist will, and should, be able to either point out or remind you of that progress.
- Realism – My experience has taught me that therapy is a constant in my life. But that’s not the case for most people. Most people just need, what I call a “jump-start”, to get back on track. A good therapist will work with you to develop a treatment plan that works best to get you back on track. And in many cases, that includes a cessation of sessions. Of course, you’ll only read stories about therapists that are charlatans and thieves because that’s what sells. Trust me when I say, there are far more honest, genuine and very caring therapists than there aren’t.
Now the most important thing:
- Trust your gut – I know, right? Seems dumb. But it’s real. Whatever you’re going through, you still have that instinct in you. We all have it. Listen to it. If it doesn’t feel right, move on. There will be another therapist. You’ll find one that clicks it just may take a little work, that’s all. In the end, it will be worth it. And if you’re worried about hurting their feelings, don’t worry too much about it. Ideally, you would tell them that you don’t think it’s going to work, but if you want to ghost them, ghost them.
In the thick of a funk, finding a therapist can appear like an overwhelming task. The internet can help and so can online sites like BetterHelp. Remember that once you find a therapist and you figure out what’s going to work for you, the heavy lifting (the work) is all on you.
You may feel a little broken but you’re always fixable.
A LITTLE NOTE: A couple weeks ago I wrote about the importance of mental health and suicide prevention. Earlier this week the family of superstar DJ and Producer Avicii (born Tim Bergling) announced the creation of The Tim Bergling Foundation which will raise will raise money for a variety of causes including mental health and suicide prevention.
While not a big star in the United States, the Swedish Avicii was an international superstar who struggled with his fame (and drugs and alcohol). In 2016, he stepped away from the limelight. Unfortunately, he was still unable to find the peace he wanted and took his own life in April of 2018.
To mark the one year of Avicii’s passing, April 20, 2019, The Tim Bergling Foundation will officially launch; with the goal of “honoring his memory and continuing to act in his spirit”.
I wish them the best.