Every book written about what makes therapy successful will tell you that the single, most important factor is the relationship formed between the client and the therapist. This is why it is so important for you to be discerning when making a choice about who to work through your struggles with.
Unfortunately, we have a limited number of qualified psychotherapists to choose from, and finding the available ones can be tiring leaving a very small window for us to be selective. Those of us who eventually find a therapist do so at the dying moment when our mental health challenges have began to affect our personal and professional lives thus impairing our judgement when making this decision. Other times, the therapist may have been introduced to us by a friend or family member and we feel obliged to receive their help.
Whichever way you happened upon the therapist that you are considering booking an appointment with, you should understand that you have the final say about who you choose to work with because it is for YOUR well-being, and should allow yourself enough time to be a bit more certain.
I cannot provide you with a fool-proof plan on how to make this decision but here are two tips that I believe will guide you:
1) RESEARCH YOUR THERAPIST
It is best to have a brief conversation with them on the phone or via email about their work history, training, and area of specialization especially if they have no online presence. Psychotherapists have different mental health issues that they treat and different methods of treating them. Some therapists work specifically with families, couples, adolescents, children or treat specific illnesses such as bi-polar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or depression.
For example, I work mostly with clients suffering from depression and anxiety. My method of treatment is a mixture of psychoanalysis and cognitive-behavioral therapy. This means that during our sessions, if necessary, we will work on dealing with issues from your past and changing negative thoughts and behaviors patterns that are contributing to your current distress.
For a deeper understanding of the various therapeutic interventions, read about them HERE
2) GO WITH YOUR GUTS
If it does not feel right, it is not right.
You will be divulging your secrets and fears to this individual so it is important that you feel comfortable around them. If you feel like you cannot trust them, you have the right to terminate the relationship. Some clients have complained about feeling judged by their therapist. If you feel the same way, feel free to cancel your appointments. I have also come to realize that young clients tend to go for young therapists or older ones who are in tune with the times because it makes communication easier and they feel understood. This is also worth thinking about.
When you have to go see a shrink, it is normal for you to feel like you are going to safe place where you will be free to speak and be listened to but it does not always turn out that way. I have had a few bad experiences with therapists myself. My first therapist made me feel like she was too busy to attend to me. The second one wanted to place me on pills almost immediately which I rejected. The third one yelled at me as if he was interrogating me for a crime I had committed but kept refusing to admit too. However, none of that stopped me from trying to get help rather it made me more conscious of the type of experience that I need to provide for the individuals that request to see me.
Therapists are still humans and are not perfect. We have our strengths as we do our weaknesses but that is what sets us apart from each other, and makes it possible for clients with different strengths and weaknesses to find their perfect fit.