In 2022, I decided to stop doing traditional therapy. I had spent almost a decade accumulating qualifications that made me highly qualified as a therapist, but the truth was that it was no longer bringing me joy. I had to follow my intuition. This is exactly what I work with my clients to do – to find their ‘ikigai’ and trust themselves in the process. So I had to ‘walk the talk’ and lead the way. I felt the call to do something beyond therapy that I could only do if I stepped away from it, which is exactly what I did.
However, I am still contacted frequently by people seeking a therapist and they don’t know where to start on their journey. I know that finding the right therapist is a mission-critical endeavour; it’s about fostering a meaningful connection while ensuring that person has what is needed to guide you through the labyrinth of your inner world.
As someone who has been both a therapist (and sought therapy personally) and now serves as a coach and facilitator, I can’t stress enough the significance of making a well-informed choice. It is up to you to do the research and ask the ‘right’ questions, so here goes with my thoughts:
Credentials and Experience
Sure, a warm smile is nice, but what you really need to know is if they’re licensed and specialised in your area of concern. A charming personality won’t resolve deep-seated issues. Ask how long they have been practising and which licensing board they operate under. Also, if appropriate, ask which level they are under the governing body such as APA (America), APS (Australia), PACFA (Australia), ACA (Australia), BPS (United Kingdom) etc. You will be able to find all the relevant information for the governing bodies on their respective websites, including the code of conduct for therapists. Note that therapists operating in countries that do not have their own registered governing bodies will typically be members of an association abroad. For example, when I was operating in Hong Kong, I was registered with the ACA and PACFA in Australia for licensing purposes.
A jack-of-all-trades won’t cut it. Make sure your therapist has a focused expertise in what ails you, be it anxiety, trauma, or relationship issues. There are numerous websites such as Psychology Today where you can search for a therapist based on types of therapy and issues.
Is it Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Solutions-Focused Therapy, Systemic Family Therapy, or maybe Positive Psychology? The method should resonate with your needs and worldview. If it doesn’t align, neither will your therapeutic journey. Saying this, you may not know which approach is going to suit you, which is why you may need to explore different options to find which is a fit. Many therapists have experience in various approaches and will call upon different ones at different times depending on the client’s needs.
Online or in-person? Insurance or out-of-pocket? Availability? These aren’t just details; they’re determinants of whether this relationship will be feasible long-term. Note that in some countries there are limits as to where they can operate from in terms of states and online or in-person, depending on where they are located and also where the client is based.
Confidentiality and boundaries aren’t up for debate. Make sure they’re established and respected from the get-go. Clarity is key on this and you are should address this up-front. Typically you will be provided with a confidentiality agreement that will outline this in advance of commencement. You can ask to review this before committing.
Your gut feeling is your internal barometer. Trust it. If something feels off, chances are, it is. Just because they can see you, doesn’t mean they are the right therapist for you.
Consistency and Availability
Healing doesn’t work on a once-in-a-blue-moon basis. Ensure the therapist has the bandwidth to accommodate consistent appointments. This is a common issue I find and one of the contributing factors to therapy not working. Be up-front about your availability and ensure that the therapist has availability at their end to work with you.
Let’s be real; therapy is an investment. Know what you can afford and balance that with the value you’re receiving.
The Value of Supervision
Finally, ask about their supervision. A therapist who regularly consults with a mentor is one committed to ongoing professional and personal growth. For example, I do weekly peer supervision and monthly one-to-one supervision, even though I no longer do traditional therapy. I see this as an investment in my ongoing development, that my clients ultimately reap the benefits of.
Choosing a therapist isn’t merely a decision; it’s a commitment to your well-being and self-improvement. Utilize these questions as a roadmap, and may you find the guide best suited to accompany you on your path to emotional wellness.
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