There are many things to look for when looking for a therapist. However, there are three major things for which to look. One is credentialing. If you are needing help with a individual issue such as depression, anxiety, addiction and the like, then look for someone in that related field. Many times a Social Worker (MSW), Psychotherapist, or Registered Marriage and Family Therapist will have a focus in one of those areas. It is important to find someone who deals fully in the area of need. As the saying goes, one does not go to a foot doctor for brain surgery.
There may be times one may need to seek help on a deeper level through a psychologist or psychiatrist. The difference, a psychologist is steeped in assessment and cognitive/systemic treatment plans without medications. The psychologist is better trained in “talk therapy”. Where a psychiatrist is steeped in assessment and many times will provide medication for the diagnoses. There are times when both a cognitive/systemic treatment plan is needed in addition to the medication.
When looking for “relational” help, the best choice is usually a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist. They are steeped in relational treatment through Individual, Family, Marriage and Couples Counseling. Even then do your homework.
The second thing you look for in a therapist is connectivity. The first session is like an interview. You are looking to see if you feel a connection of sorts with that therapist. If there is no connection, one may not be as open and trust is more difficult to build. Not talking kind-of throws a wrench into “talk therapy”. If you do not feel a connection, kindly phone the therapist/counselor the next day and tell him/her “it isn’t a good fit for me”. The therapist should then say okay and help you locate a therapist who may be a better fit. As a side note…if the therapist is upset by your decision, you made a good decision as this about you and what you need and not what the therapist needs.
This is also an interview for the therapist/counselor. S/he should be looking to see if they have the skill sets to help you. If not, they should be referring you to someone who does. No need to waist your time or theirs.
Finally, the third thing to look for is; if in the first session, a therapist/counselor is able to tell you “all” you need to do to fix everything going on, you need another therapist!!! No one with whom you speak can be (or will ever be) an expert in your life experience. There are few exceptions to this concept.
Have a wonderful week!