When crisis happens with your health, longevity and functionality are at steak. Looking for a doctor for back surgery or brain surgery is less about how much they charge and more about who knows them, their reputation and success rate.

You shop doctors for serious health issues according efficacy, shop for a therapist the same way.  

The therapy community is pretty tight knit. If you find a therapist that no one has heard of that should be a red flag for several reasons. For one, it could point to a lack of continuing education and collaboration with other therapists. Collaboration in this field is important because not one therapist, or person for that matter, can know everything. It could be that they are new too. That is okay if your situation is a good fit for a newbie. Some newer therapists are very good.

Stumbling across a therapist on Psychology Today and going with them based solely on the insurance they take could cost you a lot more than a $40 co-pay.

In the OR you are a mechanism to fix. You are a spine, organs and so on. Your parts work very much like the next person’s. In therapy each person is like a fingerprint. It is important to make sure counselor and client are a good fit, and here’s why; one bad fit could mean the end of your opportunity to get better.

I work with couples mostly so when I think of this I think of divorce and relationships dissolving. Both are traumatic situations. It is so sad to see a family splitting apart because they weren’t given the best therapeutic chance.

When someone comes across a bad doctor they search out another, when they find a bad match in therapy they tend to say, “therapy sucks.”  

Once someone decides therapy isn’t going to work for them they may stop seeking help, not realizing it was just a bad fit. A loss of hope often perpetuates bad situations to become worse.

Take referrals, interview your potential therapist and let them interview you as well. 

You call into a specialty doctor for an evaluation. Chances are you have heard of this person through the grapevine already. They answer the phone, take your name, address and sometimes social security number before you even make the appointment. Do you ask how much the surgery is going to cost? No, you just want to get better!

Therapists taking new client phone calls should be doing a short 10-20 minute interview process. The idea is to find a good fit and refer to a colleague if need be. If this isn’t happening ask some of your own questions to get a sense of their work and personality. Maybe write some questions down that are important for you to know before reaching out. The last question is usually about payment. t that point, after deciding if every other aspect is good to go you will have the opportunity to decide if their hourly rate is something you can manage during the time you are in therapy.

If you are looking at marriage counseling, I have another blog post that breaks down the average cost of therapy vs divorce.

Ask questions.

You may get a sense of their personality over the phone without even asking. A question I get a lot is, “What techniques do you use?” This question is just as cliche as the famous, “…and how does that make you feel.” Approach your therapist interview from an experience/success angle.

Here are some questions to get you started if they don’t have many:

  • First, narrow down how you would describe what you need help with that fits in 5 minutes.
  • What kind of clients do you mainly work with? What percentage of your practice would you say that is?
  • Why did  you become a counselor?
  • What is it about me or my situation that sounds like it would fit with the work you focus on or enjoy?
  • What kinds of clients or situations would not be a good fit for you in your practice?
  • What frequency do you suggest we start with for appointments?
  • What hours do you keep?
  • How would you describe therapy?

These questions and any others you feel are relevant should protect you from getting the therapy run around and land you in the best fit office your first try.

First pick your therapist based off a best match, then factor in finances. If their fee is something you can’y handle, maybe they have a friend that has a similar personality and work ethic they can refer you to!

By Kristen Craren St. Louis Area Counseling Professional

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