Choose A Psychotherapist That Fits You! The How-To!

Choose the right psychotherapistTrying to choose a psychotherapist that fits you can feel challenging, but that feeling is normal. Beginning psychotherapy, if you’ve never done that before, can also be a bit daunting. First of all, you don’t know what it’s going to be like. You don’t know if it will work for you or if you feel it’s a good match with the therapist.

What if you find out you’ve been doing things the hard way or ineffectively? You are in good company if this rings a bell for you.  No worries. Here are some tips for finding the right therapist.

I will use “she” in this article, but there are plenty of competent male therapists available as well. Go with what is most comfortable for you.


See if You Can Speak to Them Over the Phone to See if It’s a Match

If the therapist doesn’t speak to you on the phone before you meet, it may be that that’s not their style. Some therapists will answer questions over the phone in the beginning. That way, the client knows the therapist will be open to their questions. It should be a short call, however, of no more than 10 minutes, I believe.

If they won’t give you five minutes to answer some questions, see how you feel. If you are not comfortable, then move on to calling another therapist. However, some therapists will say come to the first session, and if you are not satisfied, there is no charge. If they say there will still be a charge, decide if that will be ok for you.

Let’s look at other signs of a good match between you and a therapist.


Don’t Be Afraid to Ask a Friend for a Therapist Referral.

Sometimes it isn’t easy to choose a psychotherapist that fits you, especially if you know nothing about them. It may help to ask a friend if they know a therapist they like.  Also, they may know someone who has had good experiences with a particular therapist.

Important: Don’t worry about the therapist discussing you with your friend or whoever referred you to a particular therapist. A therapist is sworn to confidentiality and could genuinely jeopardize their license if they spoke to someone without your permission.


Choose a Psychotherapist That Fits You and Your Needs

In your first appointment, the therapist will likely begin to ask you some questions, such as the reason you are coming for therapy at this particular time. That’s because they want to know what was so important to you that it moved you to take suitable action.

Therapists all have their styles. Some may tell you how they work. Others will dive in and ask you what your primary goal may be for therapy. No worries if you don’t yet know. That’s most common. Many people come to therapy because they’re in pain and no longer want to feel that way. Choose a psychotherapist that complements your individual style.

Some clients come in and want to vent. Others may want to give the therapist information so they can feel they’re already moving forward. Again, do what feels most comfortable for you.

What’s most important is that the therapist’s style helps you feel emotionally safe and that they will be able to help you.


You Feel the Therapist is Capable of Moving You Forward

Sometimes the therapist will begin by asking you why you came in “now” at this time? That’s an important question. Sometimes people put off getting help because they think things could get better on their own. Or it may be they were afraid their circumstances wouldn’t improve, even with a good therapist.

Again, these are common concerns. You can give it a try and see how you feel. If you ask for what you want and the therapist doesn’t seem to hear you, speak up and explain what you want. If that doesn’t work, it may not be a good match for you. That happens sometimes. You can look for another therapist.

But give the therapist a try if you can. Sometimes it may take a couple of sessions to determine if it’s a good fit. Remember, the therapist doesn’t know you yet and won’t always know what works for you in the best way. Often it takes time to get used to opening up. That’s normal.


The Therapist is a Good Listener and Truly Hears and Seems to Understand You

It’s normal to misunderstand one another at times. But if you feel she doesn’t seem to follow what you say or understands what you mean, speak up. Sometimes getting to know each other takes a bit of time. If you find this disconnection seems to continue, then it may not be a good fit.

But most of the time, you likely will feel she does hear you, and your communication will get even more accessible over time. It’s essential to speak up and ask for what you want. It’s critical to make sure she understands what you are saying over time. If not, speak up.

She will be taking notes to continue to cover those things most important to you to help you move forward. She will never show someone else your file unless you give written permission for her to do so. Therefore, no worries about confidentiality.

Your therapist may need to break confidentiality only if you are in imminent danger. She needs to get you immediate help to keep you safe. However, that is rarely the case, so no worries.


You Feel Respected by Your Therapist

Respect is essential in therapy. The client needs to feel valued by the therapist and that their needs matter to the therapist. If you ever feel uncomfortable, speak up right away. Sometimes a therapist won’t know they hurt your feelings or made you feel uncomfortable, so it’s crucial to let them know how you feel. This is part of the normal process of doing psychotherapy.


You Grow To Believe Your Therapist Will Never Judge You

Feeling judged is another critical piece of the process in therapy. It’s almost impossible to get the therapeutic work accomplished if you are afraid to speak up. Your therapist may not know she came across as judging you, so you need to discuss this right away.

Building a safe space may take a bit of time because you don’t know each other initially, and it always takes time. So at times, if you feel misunderstood or judged, you need to tell her to discuss this with you. It’s part of the process of getting to know each other moving forward.


Choose a Psychotherapist That Demonstrates What You Want to Get Out of Therapy and Works Towards That Goal

Make sure you and your therapist discuss and write down goals of what you want to be accomplished when you feel your work is complete. Sometimes goals may change, which is normal.

We don’t always know what we want until we bump into it. So it’s okay if you add or change your goals. It’s important to discuss this with your therapist. You want to feel good about feeling better and making good decisions when your therapy is completed.


What If You Choose A Psychotherapist And  Find It’s Not a Good Fit?

Take the time to choose a psychotherapist that fits you. Sometimes your initial choice may not be a good fit.  A poor fit may happen sometimes, but not often. It’s nobody’s fault. It may be that you don’t feel understood after many attempts to try to explain.  Remember, each therapist has their personality just like you do.

Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you still feel uncomfortable and that it’s not a good fit, you are free to look for another therapist. But there is a bit of warning….

You may feel uncomfortable in therapy at times. Discomfort is normal.  Sometimes we feel shame inside for our actions. But that feeling doesn’t mean it’s not a good fit with your therapist. We all feel some shame at one time or another. That’s the humanness in all of us.

It doesn’t necessarily mean your therapist is judging you. Sometimes our feelings of shame or guilt are so strong we feel judged by the other person. So be sure to speak up and let your therapist know how you feel.  Also,  please talk about this with your therapist before making a move.

It’s essential you feel heard, understood, valued, not judged, etc., in therapy. But remember, you need to speak up and talk things through so the therapist can understand and help you.


Final Thoughts

Choosing a therapist that fits you can be a “slam-dunk” right away. But sometimes it may not feel comfortable or that it’s a good fit. Remember to tell the therapist what you want in coming to therapy and what works for you. For example, you may not want to feel judged or you want to feel comfortable in talking about things that are important to you.

Try to be open, especially in the beginning. Remember, it takes time to get to know each other and how you both work. That is a normal process. Remember to speak up! You’re worth it!

About Susan Saint-Welch

Susan Saint-Welch LMFT has counseled couples and individuals for many years on issues such as dating, marriage, family drama, coping with difficult times, improving self-image and living the life you love. She provides psychotherapy for clients in California and Dating, Couples and Life Coaching for clients outside California through secure video conferencing. She has published numerous articles regarding these issues on her website, on and on

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