Criteria for Choosing a Therapist

Criteria for Choosing a TherapistThe therapeutic relationship contains within it the sharing of thoughts, feelings, and experiences that can be delicate and anxiety producing. If you are not in therapy yet, you should be able to get a sense of 'fit', the sense that you really like, and trust your potential therapist almost immediately, during your very first conversation. Yes, even during the first phone contact!  If you are in therapy you should of course, already have that sense.  To this end, I do encourage you to “shop around,” if at all possible.  While the following list is by no means complete, I think it could be helpful in your consideration of a guide.  Understand that my psychotherapy is a collaborative one between my client and me. Other orientations are not necessarily so.  Therefore, these are my own imaginations that are needed to create a collaborative, healing relationship. Other clinicians may not necessarily agree depending on their orientation.  

  1. S/he seems warm, accepting and engaging. S/he has a sense of humor, but is willing to challenge you when necessary.

  2. S/he is emotionally healthy and seems to feel at ease with himself/herself.  S/he does not seem anxious or arrogant or depressed.

  3. S/he is decent, respectful, and isn't condescending.  S/he is your collaborator and so, will not seem to show off or belittle or demean you. 

  4. S/he is  trained in psychotherapy, as well as having a working knowledge of medications.

  5. S/he accepts and encourages the idea that clients are entitled to shop around for a therapist before they commit.  S/he is willing to talk to you on the phone for at least 10 minutes so you might get a sense of who they are.

  6. S/he welcomes and accepts that a consultation or second opinion is often a matter of course in psychotherapy.

  7. S/he lets you explain your problems, doesn't tell you what s/he thinks they are prematurely, or try to fit you into some standardized box.

  8. S/he is active and engaged.  If you don't feel comfortable when the therapist avoids discussions, does not answer most questions, or seems to be a "blank wall," meaningful therapy is probably not going to happen.  Successful therapy is rooted in ongoing, shared dialogue within the vessel of authentic relationship.

  9. S/he has more than one clinical orientation and fits his/her approach to your specific issue.  S/he is not guided by a "one approach fits all" philosophy. 

  10. S/he is flexible in terms of what is appropriate and helpful.  Contrary to common practice, some clients can benefit from a walk in the park or a home visit.   Appropriate touch may still have more healing power than volumes of words!

  11. S/he is not rigid about seeing you or engaging with you in the community.   S/he also accepts that you could be uncomfortable and can act accordingly and appropiately.  

  12. S/he presents you with his/her clear Statement of Clinical Policies, including limits of confidentiality, your rights as a client, etc. (You should read the therapist's "Consent" form carefully before you sign it.)

  13. Within limits, s/he is willing to talk to you on the phone in between sessions if necessary.  S/he might also be open to emails, and possibly texting.  The conditions of these communications should be clear to you from the onset of your therapy.

  14. While flexible in many ways, s/he still maintains clear and healthy boundaries (e.g: no sexual innuendo)

  15. S/he seems professional, knowledgeable, and above all competent, human and experienced.

  16. S/he communicates well with parents when treating children and adolescents.  A delicate balance must be reached between respecting adolescents' privacy and not keeping parents in the dark about their psychotherapy.

  17. S/he will not focus exclusively on your childhood or inner life.  S/he makes sure that the effects of real-present day issues, such as long commutes, parenting, eldercare, a harassing boss, are seen as legitimate and dealt with appropriately, if those are your concerns.

  18. S/he shares your basic moral values but does not work hard to prove to you how much s/he is like you.  It's okay to ask about the therapist's values.

  19. S/he can be flexible about who can be part of therapy.  At times, it might be helpful to bring your friend/lover, child, or parent with you to therapy.

  20. S/he will periodically help you assess your progress in therapy, including discussion of your treatment plan.  S/he will listen to your assessment of what is helpful and what is not during the course of therapy and respond accordingly.  

  21. S/he will take responsibility for not being effective when therapy does not progress over time.  When therapy has not yielded clear results for a significant period of time, s/he is open to revising the treatment strategy (which could include considering another therapist).

  22. S/he is willing to go over this list with you without being offended or defensive!

I do hope this has been helpful.  In the Lansing, Michigan area, please feel free to email or call me with any questions or comments at the address below.

Peter Roseman Psy.S.
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