From time to time friends and family members will ask me to recommend a therapist.  While I am always happy to make suggestions, I must confess that I have made a few referrals that ultimately were not a match made in heaven.  I know many wonderful therapists in our area but I don’t always know who will be the “right” therapist for the person in need.  This got me thinking about how you choose the “right” therapist.  It’s a fairly common question and there don’t seem to be many user friendly resources out there to help.  The most important thing to remember is that the “right” therapist for your friend or co-worker may not be the best therapist for you.  Here are a few suggestions on how to get started:

1.  Seek help sooner rather than later. Don’t wait until you feel ready to divorce to try to work on your marriage. Start therapy as soon as you notice you and your partner are not making the changes needed on your own.  This applies to any presenting problem: parenting issues, grief and loss, etc.

2.  Ask friends, family, and professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.) if they know of a good therapist. Look at some of the online therapist directories such as,,, or to find licensed therapists in your area.  Don’t be afraid to interview a few to see who might be a good fit.  Many therapists will offer a consultation or initial session as a time for you to make a decision.

3.   During the interview, ask about licensure, schooling, therapeutic orientation, areas of specialty and participation in their professional organization.  Ask about their approach to therapy and what you should expect in the initial sessions.  Most importantly, ask questions that relate to the issue that brought you to therapy.  If you are seeking couples counseling then a highly qualified play therapist is probably not going to be the right fit, no matter how highly recommended or experienced they are.  Also ask about fees and available appointment times.

4.  Consider paying out of pocket if you do not find a good fit within your insurance coverage. Research and clinical wisdom have shown that one of the most important factors to the success of therapy is relationship between therapist and client.  At its core therapy is a relationship and that relationship is the foundation for much of the success (or failure) in your treatment.  Now don’t expect your perfect therapist to be your best friend (we’ll talk about appropriate boundaries later on); but a good therapeutic relationship is crucial.  You are investing in your health and that’s worth every penny!

5.  Don’t give up if it’s not what you expected.  Therapy can be a comforting experience but it also has challenges.  Often new clients can be frustrated by the slow pace of change or the emotional turmoil that comes with exploring difficulty issues.  Talk to your therapist about your concerns and ask for some guidance.  A good therapist will work with you to address these concerns and understand the process of therapy.  It can be helpful to ask yourself how committed you are to making therapy work; successful treatment is a team effort.  And if all else fails, don’t be afraid to try a different therapist.