First of all, props to you for clicking this blog. That alone is a big step. To me, it says “I’m considering counseling services for myself or someone I love”. For a lot of people, that’s a tough move to make. i commend you.
Finding a therapist, or counselor - really here in California, they’re the same thing - is a lot like finding the right pair of shoes, the right car or the right home. It comes down to goodness of fit. Fortunately, the state’s governing system for Mental Health workers - the Board of Behavioral Sciences - has rigorous education and clinical training requirements as well examinations and continuing education that a person must complete and pass with good standing to become a Licensed Mental Health Professional. So rest easy. If you’re seeing the letters LMFT, LCSW, LEP, or LPCC after someone's name, then you’re looking at qualified individuals.
However, like shoes, a car or home, just because a therapist meets your needs on paper - as far as being a Licensed Mental Health Professional - doesn’t mean they’re right to be your therapist. Those shoes could rub in a way that’s not comfortable. The car could have a funky smell. The house could be haunted!
Jokes aside - what matters is the goodness of fit. You or your loved one is going to be spending a lot of time with this therapist, so pay attention to what comes up on your first meeting or phone conversation. Does this person provide a comfortable environment suited to you or your loved one? Does this person demonstrate the amount of his/her own personality that is comfortable to you or your loved one? Do you or your loved one feel that your reason for seeking counseling services in genuinely understood by the therapist? Are you or your loved one looking for someone to participate in heartfelt discussions and self exploration, or instead homework and recommended reading to do on your own?
Then there are specialties to consider. Say you’re looking for a therapist that specializes in support for family members of substance abusers. You’re going to want to cess out whether or not a therapist has expertise in that specific field. The truth is that while all Licensed Mental Health Professionals are exposed to a gambit of issues and treatment types, by the time they’re working in private practice or agency, they have really honed the specific areas for which they are best qualified providing counseling services.
So what to take away from this write up? Take your time to find the right fit. You’ll feel more satisfied if you do. Below I’ve included questions that you can answer to get you on the right track. Feel free to mentally answer or print them out.
I/My Loved One would be most comfortable with a Male or Female Therapist
I/My Loved One would be most comfortable with a Younger or Older Therapist
I/My Loved One is looking for Brief Therapy (generally 12 sessions) or Longer Term Therapy (12 sessions +
I/My Loved One would like Take Home Work or would not like Take Home Work.
I/My Loved One are looking for a therapist that specializes in ________________________ .