I am now pretty convinced that I need therapy. How do I find the right therapist?

The best time to seek help in therapy is before small problems become big ones. This can save a lot of time and money in the long run. People often underestimate the seriousness of their situation and wait until crises occur. We encourage families to get “check-ups” for preventative mental health, especially if they have a question or discomfort about how someone in the family is doing.

People often come to therapy with a lot of fear, anxiety and defensiveness. No surprise if one’s knowledge of counseling comes from TV or the movies that portray therapists as inept, dangerous or sexually perverted. The therapist’s office should be a safe place. Nobody’s going to take target practice, and there’s not much a seasoned therapist hasn’t heard a hundred times.

It is normal and healthy, nevertheless, to make careful choices about therapy since going to just any therapist may not be in your best interest. At the same time there are professionals out there who might well be of great help to you. Therapy is not necessarily a long drawn-out process and you might be wary of therapists who believe that all problems require therapy on a long-term basis. There is no evidence that longer-term therapies, per se, are more effective overall than more efficient short-term help.

One good way to find a therapist is to ask friends or associates about someone they have seen who was an effective change agent. View it as an experiment and make a commitment for a trial first session. Meet the prospective therapist(s), ask how he or she works, what kinds of problems she specializes in, how long treatment usually lasts and what you might expect. After a few sessions, discuss with the therapist whether or not their approach is effective.

It is important that you like the person that you see. Have the flexibility to consider other options if your first choice doesn’t work out. Finding the right therapist is like buying new shoes. If the shoe doesn’t fit, it’s not because there’s something wrong with your foot.

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