How do I choose the right therapist?
Great question. Also, a very important one.
Finding the right therapist is just as important as deciding to seek therapy. There are many different types of therapists, both based on their personalities and their practice philosophies and training.
My first recommendation would be to ask friends, colleagues or trusted doctors/other professionals for recommendations. Although it is OK if a recommended therapist doesn't necessarily feel right for you, a referral can often be a great place to start your search.
You will also want to explore the therapist's website. Do you like what you see? Do you feel like he or she may be a good fit based on how you connect with their site? Are they licensed? Do they list professional experiences/background? Do they offer their practice philosophy or types of services and do these resonate with you? Do they offer a phone or in-person consultation?
Once you've narrowed down your search, call or email the therapist(s) you would like to talk to and set up an appointment for a phone consultation. Do you feel comfortable talking to them over the phone? Do you feel like he or she is someone you may feel comfortable talking with in-person? Ask them about their experience with issues similar to the ones you are having. Ask them about their approach; are they directive? do they let the clients do most of the talking? What kind of theories/approaches/interventions do they use in their practice? Do they set goals with their clients and what is that process?
One important question that I personal think is important when searching for a therapist is whether or not he or she is in their own therapy. The best therapists know that in order to be fully present and objective for their clients, they need to constantly be working on themselves and have an outlet for processing their own emotional holdings.
Remember, if at any time you don't feel like it's the right fit, move on! You can ask that particular therapist for a recommendation or go back to the drawing board. The most effective therapist is one that you feel comfortable with that can also safely challenge, support and guide you in finding relief.