Research on successful outcomes in therapy has found one consistent finding time and time again:
Clients feel that therapy has been successful based on the quality of their relationship with their therapist.
In other words, it doesn’t matter what theory-base or therapeutic techniques a therapist uses that guarantees success; but rather, it is their ability to build a trusting, healthy relationship with their client(s) that is the key factor in helping people to achieve their desired goals.
How Do I find the Right Therapist for me?
The most important thing to look for when choosing someone is that you feel you “click” with that person. S/he should be someone with whom you feel really comfortable and sense that s/he is someone with whom you could learn to trust and build a relationship.
The relationship you have with a therapist is an extremely important one: you want to trust this person and to feel safe sharing intimate details about your life. Thus, you want to choose someone carefully.
Here is a “checklist” that I have come up with based on what I have learned about creating “a good fit” between therapist and client; highlighting some important areas of consideration when choosing the right therapist.
Of course, this may not cover everything that is of significance to your own situation: feel free to add whatever I may have missed that you feel is important for your own particular needs.
4 Points for Choosing a therapist:
1) Is this person registered within their specific area of training?
Do not overlook this one! If someone is registered with a professional body, it means that they are legally accountable for wrongdoing within the therapeutic context. You want to find out which professional body they belong to, along with the contact information for this organization should you have any questions or concerns about the therapist’s conduct.
For example, in the province of B.C., a Registered Clinical Counsellor belongs to the B.C. Association of Clinical Counsellors and is accountable to BCACC should there be a complaint made. If a complaint has been filed, an investigation may be undertaken by the professional body and may result in the RCC’s license to practise being removed if there are sufficient grounds.
Unfortunately, in B.C. anyone can call themselves a “counsellor”, regardless of education, training, and experience. The result is a risk to the public in that many people are calling themselves “counsellors” when they haven’t been properly trained and supervised to do the work. When a “counsellor” has not received proper training, they can do a lot of harm to those who seek their services.
Also, most registering bodies have as a requirement for membership compulsory liability insurance on the part of the registered counsellor. This means that if you see a Registered Clinical Counsellor, they have professional liability insurance in the case of legal action taken against them.
To become a Registered Clinical Counsellor in B.C., one must possess a minimum of a Master’s degree in a counseling-based discipline of study plus several years of supervised training and experience.
2) Do I feel I could work with this person effectively?
This is about the “fit” between you and the therapist. In essence, after speaking with her/him on the phone, did you feel that you were a “good fit” for each other? This is the most important part of finding someone you can work with effectively. If you don’t “click” with someone you will be sharing intimate parts of your life and self with, you might as well just flush your money down the toilet.
The therapeutic relationship is similar in a lot of ways to other intimate relationships that you have: you want to build a relationship with someone who you can relate to, trust, laugh with, and with someone who doesn’t judge you and accepts you no matter what you share with them. The main difference between this relationship and others in your life is that it is one-way: the therapist is there for you and the relationship is focused on helping you work through issues that are of importance to you only.
In finding out if there is a “fit”, you need to rely on your intuition and not your brain. When you speak to a therapist over the phone, what is your gut reaction? Do you feel like this is a person you could trust, feel safe with, and build a relationship with? For most of us, we can tell this within the first 5-10 minutes of talking with someone. Trust your gut and go from there.
3) Is the cost of therapy a standard rate?
This is something to pay close attention to. You want to make sure that the person you are seeing is charging the standard rate for their specific designation. Each registered body of psychotherapists has a standard fee that they suggest their members charge. In B.C., the standard fee for a Registered Psychologist is $200/hour; whereas for a Registered Clinical Counsellor, it is $120/hour.
While $120-200/hour may seem expensive, consider how much overhead the therapist is paying (i.e., office rental, phone, marketing, advertising, registration fees, professional development, and education). It costs therapists a lot of time and money to do the work that they do and the work is very challenging. Also, our society has trouble putting a high value on emotional health and well-being and thus, our priorities become skewed. A therapy session costs about the same (or less) as a haircut and colour… sometimes you have to choose your priorities.
Also, many psychotherapists who are registered are covered under extended health plans. If you have an extended health plan, check with your provider to find out if they cover psychotherapy costs. Many plans in B.C. cover Registered Clinical Counsellors and Registered Psychologists for a set dollar value.
Other plans may offer Employee Assistance Plans (or EAPs). If you have access to an EAP, that means that your employer has contracted a company to provide therapy services to it’s employees and that you can call the EAP company directly and they will assign you a therapist. In these situations, you will typically be offered short-term, brief-solution-focused counseling with a maximum of 3-10 sessions. I do not work for EAP companies; only plans where you pay me first and are then reimbursed by a health care plan.
4) What theoretical orientation (philosophy) does this person work from?
Therapists have extensive training which stems from many theories about human behavior: it’s important to find someone who’s take on things and beliefs match yours and make sense to you. For example, if you don’t believe in the “unconscious” and dream interpretation, you’re probably better off not going to someone who works from a Freudian, psychoanalytic orientation.
- You practise a specific religion, you may be more comfortable working with a therapist who has the same faith or at least accepts your beliefs without judging them
- You are looking for a family therapist, you’ll probably want someone who works from a “family systems” perspective
- Equality between men and women is important to you, and yor problems are common to women, you’ll probably want to work with someone with a ‘feminist consciousness’
A word of caution: just because a therapist may share the same values, ethnicity, sexual orientation or faith as you does not mean that you will necessarily be ‘a fit’: you still have to trust your intuition when choosing someone who on paper may seem like ‘a fit’.