In your search for a therapist you may see dozens of counselor bio’s for your area and it can be hard to tell one apart from another. Here are some tips to set you in the right direction when it comes to picking a counselor for you or your child.
Finding the “right fit” with a therapist is very important. Both you and your child should feel welcome to talk and collaborate with this person. Many studies show that a “good fit” is one of the most important factors in a client’s therapeutic success. I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true that an Ivy League graduate isn’t automatically a better choice than someone from a lesser known school. So if we can’t go solely off of where they graduated from surely we should pick one based on their personality, the number of years they’ve been practicing and or the specialized training they have. Well… yes and no. It’s really more about finding the best combination of all of the above. E.g. A qualified and educated person, who you and your child click with. So how do we know if a therapist is “the” therapist for your family?
It’s important to find a therapist who specializes in the population (age, race, gender, sexual identity) and the issue(s) you’re having. Then once you’ve narrowed it down a bit find a counselor you like by speaking with them over the phone or meeting in person for a consultation. If you need counseling for your teen it would be important to get someone experienced with teens rather than a generalist. In the same sense when you start adding on other specifics such as an LGBT teen with anxiety. Using those identifying factors when searching for a counselor can help you select someone who is skilled, experienced and specializes in that area. Although many counselors may take on a new client outside of their typical clientele they may not be as well versed in the areas you need and therefore progress may take a bit longer.
Although anxiety can be high at the first appointment remember that your goal to establish if you feel like you and your child can work collaboratively with the therapist. Do you and your child feel comfortable, safe, and can you see building a relationship with this person. If it’s an absolute no then trust your gut, if it’s a maybe I would suggest giving it a few more sessions then reevaluate, and if it’s a “yes” congrats your search is over and now the hard work begins. Please don’t be afraid to be honest but polite after the first several meetings if you don’t feel you and your new counselor are going to be able to work together. Every counselor should be supportive of your desire to seek the best care for your family.
Note: I use the terms “therapist” and “counselor” interchangeably throughout this article referring to Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC), Masters level Social Workers (MSW), Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT), and doctorate level psychologists (Ph.D & Psy.D.)