Wisdom, empathy, compassion and character are all attributes you'll want your therapist to have, but are they enough? Knowledge, experience and good professional training are essential attributes with any Therapist. Individuals often wonder if they would do better with a female or a male therapist. It could be that the nature of your particular problem, as well as your own preferences, will lead to a decision that is best suited for you. Trust your instincts to determine which gender of therapist is right for you.
Basic questions to ask that will help you decide if a therapist is right for you include:
1. "What expertise do they have with my type of problem?"
Although the therapist doesn't necessarily need to have had experience in helping with your exact problem, she or he should be at least familiar with your type of situation and be prepared to tell you how they've helped others in similar circumstances.
2. "What do they think is usually the cause of most people's problems?"
There are many ways to approach a person's problems. Depending on their personal background, training, and preferences, therapists attribute problems to different sources. Some look to childhood events, some to the interrelationship of family members, others to faulty thinking, bad habits, or societal and cultural influences. Make sure your therapist's beliefs are at least somewhat in sync with your own views.
3. "What is their fee?"
If you have no mental health insurance coverage, or you must pay a portion of the fee out of pocket, determine if you are able to comfortably afford the therapist's fee. During the first session, you and the therapist will determine an approximate length of therapy necessary to help with your particular issues and goals which will provide you with a "ballpark" figure for the total cost of therapy.
4. "What would my appointment schedule be?"
If time is a factor (e.g., if your only availability for appointments is on Monday evenings, or every other week), you should make sure that the therapist can accommodate your requirementsand will be comfortable working with you on that basis.
When you feel confident that a particular therapist's overall criteria meets your needs, you're ready for the first phone call. Although you might be feeling nervous during this initial conversation with the therapist, it can still offer an opportunity to evaluate how clearly you are able to communicate with one another and how the rapport feels. Remember, you are the one doing the choosing.
It's important to remember that therapy is a much, much richer experience than just problem-solving. The foundation of good therapy is the relationship you and the therapist build together. Because this relationship is going to be so crucial to the effectiveness of your therapy, it is essential you find someone with whom you feel a comfortable connection, someone who makes you feel understood and accepted, a therapist who creates and maintains an environment within which you can feel safe to explore even the most deeply felt sources of pain or conflict.