Happy Spring season everyone! The sun is finally beginning to shine which has got me celebrating – plus, I have recently found a new therapist in Toronto, which is very exciting!! When I shared this news on social media a few weeks ago, I was asked if I had any tips about finding the “right” therapist. I was happy to share, and when I asked my audience if they wanted a full blog post on this topic, they said yes! You ask and I deliver – today we’ll be chatting all about how to find a therapist that is a good fit for you.
***Disclaimer: please note I am not a qualified counsellor, medical or mental health professional. I am simply speaking from my own lived, personal experience on my mental health journey. Please consult your doctor or mental health professional for further advice.***
Step 1: Narrow it down based on what YOU need
There are SO many therapists out there, so if you are looking to find someone, you will need to start by narrowing things down. There are a couple of different ways to do this:
- Based on your areas of concern– you can start by looking for a therapist that specializes in what you are struggling with. For example, I really struggle with depression and anxiety, so I decided to look for a therapist who specializes in these areas. That way, I knew they had specific training to help my needs.
- Type of therapy – since I had previously worked with a therapist, I knew that I wanted someone that had a background in CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and had a trauma-informed lens in their practice. I made sure the therapist I was looking for had both of these aspects in their training background.
- Budget -therapy is expensive and it’s imperative that you are working within your budget. I am very thankful to have benefits that provide a large amount of coverage for mental health services. I made sure to fully check out my benefits beforehand to see the maximum coverage they would provide for one session, so I could know the budget to look for. I personally didn’t want to pay out of pocket at all, if possible, so trying to find a therapist that had rates that my benefits would fully cover was important to me. Obviously this is a personal decision, so take some time to think about what works for you!
- Type of qualification – one of the reasons I had to find a new therapist in the first place is because my benefits only covers therapists with certain qualifications, or designations. For example, my benefits covers folks who have a Psychotherapist designation but not Clinical Counsellor designation. This is another reason why it is SO important to check your benefits coverage ahead of time, so you know what can be covered and what won’t be covered.
Once you have an idea of your needs, this can considerably help narrow down your search for a therapist. If you’ve worked with a therapist in the past, then hopefully you have a good idea of what you need, and this process may be a bit easier for you. If this is your first time finding a therapist, it may be a bit more challenging, as you may not be exactly sure what aspects will work for you. I would highly recommend trying a service that “matches” you with a therapist that they think would be a good fit – some clinics offer this and some school programs as well (if you’re currently a student). That is actually how I got matched with my first therapist and she was amazing, so I definitely recommend going this route if you’re new!
Step 2: Time for YOU to interview THEM
Once you’ve completed step one, or what I like to call “the initial screening process,” hopefully you will have a list of therapists that you feel will fit your needs. Now, it’s time to set up an initial consultation with them to see if you would be a good fit. Just because someone looks good on paper doesn’t necessarily mean you will feel comfortable with them in a therapy setting. Therapy relies on you being comfortable enough to share details about your very personal life with your therapist, so finding someone that you feel you connect with and are open to sharing with is essential.
I try to investigate this process by doing a consultation, if it’s available. Some therapists offer a free 15-minute phone or video consultation to get a feel of how you may vibe together. In some cases, this might be enough time for you to determine whether or not you’d be a good fit; in others, you might need a bit more time. For my own experience, I felt like 15 minutes wasn’t enough time, so I booked a full intro session (50-60 minutes) to assess further. In cases where they did not offer a free consultation, then I just jumped right into this intro session. I recognize I had the privilege to do this with a few different therapists due to my benefits coverage, and not everyone has that opportunity – so work with what you can, to the best of your ability!
The most important thing to highlight during this process is not only does the consultation or intro session provide them with an opportunity to meet and get to know you, but really, this is YOUR opportunity to get to know THEM. Treat this time as almost an interview and ask them questions about themselves, their approach to clients, and anything you feel that would benefit you to know about their style. Seeing how they respond to your questions, the information they share with you, and the questions they ask YOU can be really helpful in determining fit. I’ll share an example to help illustrate: in one of my intro sessions, the therapist was asking me questions, and every time I responded – regardless of the information I was sharing, even if it was traumatizing details – her response was always “okay” in a higher-pitched voice. Though this approach may work for some people, for me personally, I got the feeling that she was always surprised by what I said and didn’t acknowledge how I may have felt about sharing it, especially traumatizing details. For that reason, I decided we wouldn’t be a good fit moving forward.
Obviously, this is highly personal and is going to fluctuate for each person based on their own preferences. I respond a lot to personality and style of therapy, and those are the aspects that I choose to prioritize. I want my sessions to feel open, comfortable, free, and like I am chatting with a friend – with a bit of that therapy mixed in. You may want a completely different style of therapy and that’s completely okay – you need to honour what works best for you!
Step 3: Listen to your gut when making your final decision
After you have done some consultations or intro sessions, hopefully you will have a short-list of therapists that you feel would be a good fit. Sometimes, it might take a couple of sessions to really determine if you can vibe together. Sometimes, external factors may also play a role – for example, I found someone who I thought would be a great fit, but she would be going on maternity leave in a few month’s time, and I decided I wanted someone I could have a longer therapy relationship with. Whatever the reasoning, it will likely take some trial and error to find the right fit. Hopefully, over time you will feel more drawn to one person over the other(s).
This is where listening to your gut is SO important! Sometimes, you may feel the pull to someone without really being able to explain why – and that’s okay. Having someone you feel comfortable with is the most important part of the therapy process, in my opinion, and you are the only one who can determine what exactly that will feel like. Full disclosure, I did intro sessions with 4 different therapists before I made my decision, so it’s completely okay to take your time and weigh your options! Therapy is a big commitment, and especially if it’s your first time starting therapy, it’s a really big decision to get started.
At times, it can be exhausting having to re-share your stories with different people. Know that I hear you, I see you, and I promise that all of the effort will be worth it in the end! You are worthy of getting help. Therapy has changed my life in so many ways and I truly don’t believe I would be here today without it. If you’re on the fence, this is your sign to do it. You deserve it, and you are not alone. Sending love xo <3