Finding a Counsellor or Therapist

If you decide to seek therapy, we want it to work for you. So we are encouraging you to be an informed consumer, and perhaps a little sceptical of mental health services. Let us begin by saying that therapy works! In fact fifty years of research have unequivocally demonstrated that those in treatment are better off than 80 percent of the people in the no treatment comparison groups.

So seeking a therapist to assist you in your efforts can be exactly what you need to inspire the changes you wish to make. But a key factor is finding a therapist that is a good fit. Not all therapists are created equal nor are therapist’s approaches all a good enough match with your theory of change.

The best way to start is to call prospective therapists and interview them by phone. It doesn’t really matter what professional degree the person holds (social worker, counsellor, psychologist, marital and family therapist) or whether she or he has a masters or a doctorate, unless of course you have a real preference or believe that such distinctions are important for you. It is much more critical that you find a person you can work with – who is a good fit for you.

Get the nuts and bolts questions regarding fees, insurance, and location out of the way first. Tell him or her that you are interviewing prospective therapists and would like to schedule a ten-minute free phone call with them. An unwillingness to give you ten minutes to ensure a good fit should be all the information you need to cross this one off your list. Respect the therapist’s time and keep to the ten minutes.

Ask these questions or any others you think are relevant to you.

  • What is your philosophy or orientation of therapy?
  • How do you think change happens?
  • What do you think of diagnoses?
  • How important do you consider collaboration and client participation?
  • How many sessions do you average per client?
  • Do you keep outcome data? Tell me about it.
  • (If they don’t monitor progress) Do you mind if I monitor my progress?
  • How are you at taking feedback from clients about the direction of therapy?

Listen for answers that reflect faith in your resources, strengths, and capabilities as the cornerstone of any change. Listen also for an emphasis on having a good relationship and the importance of your participation. Compare the answers with your own views of how change occurs.

If the therapist identifies with a particular orientation, reflect about whether it fits your theory of change. If it is different but you still think it has some merit, try it out. Recall that change principally results from your input and participation – you are the star of the therapeutic drama. Research shows that:

  1. Change depends on your resources and abilities. Effective therapy utilises your strengths to create solution possibilities.
  2. Change depends on your perceptions of the therapist and the relationship formed in therapy. Effective therapy is based on a strong working alliance – the relationship between you and the therapist.
  3. Change depends upon addressing what you want, fitting this to your views of change and inspiring the hope necessary for action. Effective therapy matches your theory of change.

If you’re ready to search for a registered counsellor in your local area, click here.

by Barry Duncan PhD. Adapted and reprinted with permission