A photograph of Melisse in her office.

Finding the right therapist

Finding the right therapist is more important than picking one from a website. Ethical, competent care is essential for your mental health – the therapist-client relationship can make you feel pretty vulnerable.

Becoming a good therapist takes a lot of time and ongoing training.  Check into a potential therapist’s training and experience.  Therapists require a minimum of a Master’s degree.  Within the mental health field, it’s generally accepted that you should have five years of experience after receiving your Master’s degree before you have enough skill to be in independent private practice.

When you go looking for a therapist, they should be registered in good standing with a Professional College. Professional Colleges set standards of practice and have codes of ethics that help protect you, the client, when you enter into a therapist-client relationship. You can easily look up potential therapists you are thinking of retaining on public search tools found on College websites.  If there have been disciplinary actions taken against them in the past, these will be listed on the website.  Colleges are also there to assist you if you feel you have been harmed by a therapist.

Always ask your therapist about what College they are registered with and if they are vague, tell you they do not need to be registered or cannot provide you with legitimate website with a searchable database, you may wish to look elsewhere.

The more important piece about finding the right therapist is ‘fit.’  We know from research that ‘fit’ will help you feel better more quickly, make therapy more effective, and help you just feel better about coming to sessions.

But what is fit?  That’s harder to determine.  There are some very concrete things you can do to figure that out.

What is a good ‘fit’ with a therapist? A few useful things to check to find a good therapist:

  • Do you feel like they are listening to you? Truly listen? Do they listen more than they talk?  Do they make sessions about themselves?  Therapists should offer feedback to you but should never monopolise the session.  In general, therapists should talk less than a quarter of the session unless you are asking for specific feedback or they are teaching you a skill.
  • Have your friends had a good experience with a therapist and recommend one?  Generally if your friends (people you like, trust and have things in common with) have had a good fit with a therapist, you have a better chance of hitting it off with the therapist as well.
  • Do they have experience treating your particular concern?  Can they tell you about their experience and/or training?
  • Can they tell you their philosophy on therapy? Do they act like ‘the expert’ all the time? A therapist who is unwilling to tell you the reason they are doing what they are doing or is acting like an expert all the time is a red flag.
  • Do you feel like you get something out of sessions ie. do they have focus and a purpose?  Or do you feel like you are paying for a friendly visit with no particular goal in mind?
  • On the flip side – are they more focused on a theory rather than you, the client?  Some therapists are highly specialised in particular interventions.  Inquire to find out if that’s the case and unless you are looking for that type of counselling, you may want to find another clinician.
  • Do they check in to see if they understand what you are saying? If you correct their understanding, do they get huffy and defensive?  Not a good sign.
  • Do they let you interview them before committing to booking sessions?
  • Do they believe in one specific theory/modality for ALL issues?  There is no such thing as a ‘miracle’ cure.
  • Do they say they treat all issues?  While some therapists are ‘generalists’, therapists who say they can treat every issue may be overreaching.  No therapist can treat all issues and competent ones will refer you if they think they cannot effectively help you, do not have room or lack adequate training in that area.  In fact, we are obligated to under our code of ethics.
  • Do they let you determine the timing of sessions or are you pressured to sign up for a set number of sessions?  Signing up for a set number of sessions ie. Once a week for two months when you wanted once a month is not a good start
  • Can you share a laugh once and awhile?
  • How do they challenge you? Do they challenge you? A therapist who agrees with everything you say isn’t necessarily doing you any favours.
  • Are they willing to admit to mistakes?  Are they willing to change directions if something isn’t working for you?  You may wish to ask them at the beginning of therapy or when you are interviewing them how they respond to these situations with clients.
  • Are they quick to diagnose you, your family, your friends with problems? Most counsellors do not have the proper credentials to diagnose and frankly, should NOT be diagnosing ANYONE let alone people they haven’t met  

Fit is also a bit elusive and is sometimes about your gut feeling on the therapist. Sometimes, it takes a bit of time to determine ‘fit.’ Because of this, I offer a free consultation for anyone considering working with me. This gives you a chance to interview me and ask any questions you may have. It also gives you a chance to consider if you want to work with me – you can take time to decide before booking a session.

It is often helpful to prepare a list of questions prior to interviewing any therapist so you can cover the points that are important to you.

The best way to get in touch is email:  [email protected]