by Dr. Kim Dwyer
If you are seeking a therapist for yourself or your child or family, you probably have some questions. One of the questions we are often asked is “how will I know if my therapist is a good fit?” While this is a somewhat complicated question, the simplest answer is “you will know because it feels right.” It is important that you feel heard and develop a good rapport with a therapist. While this can take several appointments, often people have a sense fairly quickly. Some factors that can help determine “fit” include:
- Expertise: does my therapist understand diagnostic issues for which I am seeking treatment, and is s/he knowledgeable about empirically (research) supported treatments that are proven to be helpful for these concerns?
- Experience: does my therapist have experience with the types of difficulties I am having and with my age group (or that of my child), what are my therapist’s educational and licensing credentials, and does my therapist have any specialized training or knowledge that would be important in my treatment?
- Rapport: do you feel like your therapist “gets” you and your/your child’s difficulties? Does s/he make an effort to understand your experience, clarifying as necessary? Do you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings, and feel like therapy is a safe and confidential place? Do you feel like you can safely disagree with your therapist? Are you treated warmly, compassionately, respectfully, and professionally?
- Personal Factors: are there other factors that will make it easier to click with a therapist? Do you prefer a female or male therapist? Is the location of your therapist’s office convenient to your home and/or work? Are there issues relating to scheduling appointments that will be important to discuss?
It can sometimes take a few appointments to determine if a therapist is a good fit for you, though some people can tell from the first phone call. If you feel like you are not “clicking” with your therapist, we encourage you to talk to him or her. S/he should be open to such a conversation and work to resolve any issues that are in his/her control. If ultimately you do not have a good fit with your therapist, that’s ok. You may have already started a journey towards your goals through identifying your concerns and understanding more about your symptoms and the process of therapy. If you decide to terminate treatment, you can request a referral to another therapist and start the journey slightly farther towards your goals.