BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO THERAPY: HOW TO PICK A THERAPIST

*Beginning therapy can be tough! There are so many different aspects that unless you’re in the know or have sought therapy before, you wouldn’t really have any idea about. My “Beginner’s Guide to Therapy” blog series will go over some of the most common questions I get from those seeking out therapy for the first time as well as helpful tips and tricks to make sure that you find the perfect fit for your therapeutic journey. Follow along on my blog for all the latest posts.

Every week I have at least a few emails from potential clients who are searching for a therapist for either themselves or a loved one. These are people who know that they need help and have finally mustered up the courage to reach out. Often their emails relay that they are unsure of what to ask, how to start the process, and are simply overwhelmed and confused as to what to do. If this is how you’ve felt, this post is for you. I’m going to shed light on what the most important aspects of picking a therapist are so that you can feel informed and empowered in the selection process. Let’s take a look at the top questions to consider when picking a therapist.

1) Does their personality and style of therapy click with me?

The therapeutic relationship is one of the top predictors of success in counseling. If you don’t like and trust your therapist, you aren’t going to get much work done. A few ways that we can gauge if a therapist fits well with you is by checking out their website, blog articles, professional social media pages, and also having a quick phone call with them. I offer a free 15 minute phone consultation to all clients so that they can hear my voice, get to know me a little bit, and ask any questions they have prior to ever setting up a session. By getting a feel for their style of communication and personality we have a better understanding of whether we can feel safe and comfortable opening up in session.

For example, this is how I would describe my therapy style: I make sure that therapy is a collaborative process between myself and my client. I’m really big on empowering my clients in the therapy process (and in life in general) so I make sure to provide plenty of psychoeducation in sessions. My clients know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and ultimately the decisions are left in their hands. I believe that when people are given information and choice, they are able to make the best decisions for themselves. 

Beginner Tip: Check out the therapist’s website and professional pages. Check to see if they offer a free consultation call prior to the first session so you can gauge their fit. Ask them how they view their role in sessions as well as the client’s role.

2) What type of therapy do they practice?

The general public often is unaware that there are different types of therapy. These different forms of therapy mean that your interventions, course of therapy, and conceptualization of the issues you’re facing will go a little differently depending on the type. Any therapist should be able to explain exactly how their types of therapy work together to help their clients. If a therapist isn’t able to explain their therapy types to you, it is probably best to seek out a more knowledgeable clinician who can. When a therapist is unable to give a clear answer as to why they use certain types of theories or how they work together, they may be doing a “let’s throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” type of approach which will not be effective. You deserve someone who knows what they are doing.

For example, this is my process: I use family systems and attachment theories to understand how we got to the point we have now, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) to understand how our issues are continuing to affect us in the present while giving us tools for when situations come up in the future, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) to make sure that our negative beliefs and triggers are no longer as powerful (thus reducing maladaptive behaviors we’ve developed from them). In addition, I make sure to incorporate both somatic (body) focused interventions and mindfulness throughout the process to help a client’s mind and body work together for more holistic awareness and healing.

Beginner Tip: Ask potential therapists what type of therapy they practice and how it helps with the specific issues you’d like to work on.

3) What are their session fees and payment options?

While we wish finances weren’t a consideration when it comes to getting help, they unfortunately are, so this is an important factor to consider. If you plan to use your insurance for sessions (though there may be reasons you may not wish to) you will need to check with both the therapist and your insurance to make sure they are paneled with them and also what your co-pay will be (or how much you have to pay before your deductible is met). Not all therapists take insurance and even therapists who take insurance, do not take all insurances. You want to be very clear about this from the start.

If you are pursuing a private pay clinician, you will want to see what forms of payment they accept, when session fees are due, if you can use a health savings account (HSA) card, or what Out of Network benefits look like (learn more about OON superbills on my FAQ page).

Beginner Tip: Decide whether you want to use insurance or private pay prior to searching for a therapist to narrow the search and to check benefits (if needed) with insurance.

4) What is their scheduling availability like?

Nowadays it can be tough getting scheduled with mental health therapist. There is a lot of demand currently and more established therapists may even have a waitlist for clients. When reaching out to clinicians ask questions like: Are you accepting new clients? When is the earliest next available appointment? Are you able to offer weekly or bi-weekly sessions to start? What are your normal office hours? As well as offering the times that you are available for sessions or preferences you may have to see if they are able to accommodate (e.g. mornings, afternoons, lunch break sessions, or weekends).

Beginner Tip: If given a choice between telehealth sessions or in-person, it is often much easier and flexible to be scheduled via telehealth. Most of my clients actually prefer the convenience of virtual sessions rather than driving in to the office. It also may get you a more desirable session time slot as well.

One last tip…

If you reach out to a therapist and they don’t get back to you in a timely manner (1-2 business days) it may be best to move on. Of course your clinician won’t be at your beck and call (that would be poor boundaries), but you do want someone that has the time to answer an email within a couple days. If they don’t have that time, then they most likely will not have the time for sessions with you. You are deserving of a response, even if just to say they are currently full.

So there we have it, my biggest tips on how to effectively find a therapist that works for you. I hope this post helped take some of the mystery and fear out of the process, allowing you to reach out with confidence. I hope you all have success in finding the perfect therapeutic fit for you!

Remember: You are worthy. You are capable. You are enough. ❤

Best, Jess

About the author
Jess Kraemer, MA, PLPC

Hi, I’m Jess. I’m an EMDR therapist here is St. Louis, MO. I use EMDR in combination with CBT, attachment theory, and family systems theory to help adult individuals, adolescents, couples, and families work through the issues that have been holding them back from the life they want. I specialize in working with clients experiencing attachment issues and negative core beliefs–those pesky feelings of being “not enough”, “bad”, “unworthy”, and more. If things have not been feeling “quite right” in your life, let’s chat! Give me a call at 314-484-1196 for a free 15 minute consultation or send me an email at jkraemer@psychservstl.com.

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Jessica L. Kraemer, MA, PLPC is under the supervision of Dr. Brittany N. Murphy, PhD, LPC, BC-TMH MO License 2013022876

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THE INFORMATION PROVIDED BY ME ON THIS SITE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. NO THERAPEUTIC OR PROFESSIONAL RELATIONSHIP IS ESTABLISHED BY YOUR REVIEW OF THIS MATERIAL AND USE OF THIS SITE. NO DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENT, OR SPECIFIC THERAPEUTIC ADVICE IS BEING PROVIDED TO YOU. THERE IS NO INTENT FOR ME OR THIS SITE TO OFFER SPECIFIC PSYCHOLOGICAL OR MEDICAL ADVICE TO ANY PERSON. THE INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITE SHOULD ONLY BE USED BY YOU IN CONSULTATION WITH A QUALIFIED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL THAT YOU ENGAGE FOR CONSULTATION AND/OR TREATMENT. NO GUARANTEES OR WARRANTIES ARE MADE WITH REGARD TO ANY INFORMATION PROVIDED BY ME ON THIS SITE. I TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR WEBSITES, VIDEOS, OR PRODUCTS HYPERLINKED BY THIS SITE, AND SUCH HYPERLINKING DOES NOT IMPLY ANY RELATIONSHIP WITH ME OR ENDORSEMENT BY ME OF THE LINKED SITES.

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