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  • Tammi Imel

Tips on Finding the Right Therapist

The client-counselor relationship is the single best predictor of positive outcomes for therapy. This makes finding the right counselor for you an important key to success. Here are my tips for finding the therapist that will help you get the most from therapy!

Licensure Matters. In Indiana, only persons who have had specific education and experience can call themselves counselors or therapists. In order to be a therapist/counselor in most states, requirements include a Bachelor's degree in Psychology or a related field, a Master's degree in Counseling, Social Work, or Marriage and Family Counseling, and the equivalent of two full time years of working in the field, supervised, prior to taking the licensure exam. After successfully passing the licensure exam, therapists must also pass a jurisprudence exam over the statutes that pertain to mental health, and participate in 20 hours of continuing education each year to maintain their license. That'a a lot of education and training! It takes, at minimum, eight years to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor if you attend school college and post-graduate university full-time.

Research Therapists. In today's connected society, therapists must have webpages that tell about their services. Usually, their website will talk a little bit about them, but focus more on how they can help you. Be sure that the therapist has training and experience in the issue that you need help with. If it is unclear from their page, ask them via email or a phone call.

If You Read Reviews, Keep An Open Mind. Almost every therapist I know has a few bad reviews. It happens to doctors and therapists when a client doesn't want to pay a bill, doesn't like a therapist's assessment of the situation, or encourages personal responsibility that the client does not want to assume. It can happen when one member of a couple gets angry about a relationship ending and blames the therapist -- and many more scenarios come to mind. I would expect a few bad reviews, but I would look for primarily good reviews. A fact to know: therapists cannot solicit or ask for a review of services. It is not ethical.

How Many Years Has the Therapist Practiced? Bad therapists do not stand the test of time, especially in private practice. If a therapist is still in business after many years of private practice, that is a sign that they are doing something (probably many things!) right.

How Does the First Session Go? Unless you have been in counseling before, you will likely be nervous. That is normal! As you reflect on the session, ask yourself these questions: do I feel comfortable with this person? Did the seem interested and attentive while I was talking? Do I have the sense that I could trust this person?

Therapy is a unique relationship. It requires deep intimacy from the client which is not returned by the therapist. Therapists may use self-disclosure in therapy only when it pertains to the an issue you have, and only when it is relevant. Your therapist can be relaxed and engaging, but should be professional at all times and keep the focus on you.

I hope these tips help you find a great match!

All good things,


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