Coming to a decision to get the mental health support you need is a great thing, particularly if you have spent weeks or months, perhaps even years, debating with yourself whether you should seek professional help in the first place. However, looking for a therapist can quickly begin to feel daunting as you are faced with questions that you may have never considered before.

You may wonder what type of person you are looking for, which type of therapist would suit your needs, how often you would want to have your sessions, and the list can go on and on. These are all important questions that need to be considered prior to embarking on your therapy journey as the therapist you choose can make all the difference in your mental health. 

Below are a few tips that are important to keep in mind when looking for a therapist which can hopefully help to make this process less stressful:

1. Qualifications and registration

Make sure that the therapist has the necessary qualifications and undertaken professional training in their discipline. Invariably, this means that the therapist is a registered member of a professional body that is recognised by the government authority. The use of professional credentials with their name indicates their level of education and training. You can also ask about their credentials when you contact their office. 

2. Experience and expertise

Some therapists offer to treat a variety of mental health issues and may not have the experience and expertise in treating your specific difficulties. For instance, if you are struggling with a specific issue, such as an addiction or trauma-related condition, it is important to find a therapist who has experience in these areas, as they will be better placed to understand your needs and help you overcome your difficulties.

3. Interpersonal skills

When a therapist has good interpersonal skills, you are likely to feel more at ease and communicate your needs better. Having good listening skills is vital in a therapist, and they should express empathy and treat you with respect. It is also important for you to feel that the therapist is listening to you the way you need them to. For instance, you may prefer a therapist who offers regular feedback or perhaps you may be rather listened to uninterrupted so that you can work through your difficulties on your own. It is thus important to consider which approach would work best for you when looking for a therapist

4. Professionalism

Professionalism refers to the therapist’s ability to hold to professional standards and maintain the professional competence to be expected of their role. Although you may first have to meet with the therapist a few times to get a proper sense of their professional etiquette, there are various situations which would indicate a lack of professionalism; for example, the therapist forgets what was discussed in the previous session; they turn up late for sessions; they are judgmental or critical of your behaviour, lifestyle, or difficulties; they disclose information about themselves without therapeutic purpose; they are not sensitive towards your culture, religion, or gender; or they try to have a personal relationship with you. 

5. It’s okay to change therapist

Just because you have met with your therapist for the first or second session, you do not need to feel obliged to continue with that therapist if you already feel that the person is not the right fit for you. It is perfectly fine to meet with a few therapists first before deciding which one you would like to continue working with. Although this process can feel frustrating, being selective in your choice will help you get the most out of your time in therapy. Always remember that you have the right to have the best care available.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Dr. Ronald Zammit holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the University of Southampton, has completed Master’s level psychotherapy training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy at the New Buckinghamshire University in the UK, as well as received training in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). He has a special interest in mood and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and other trauma-related difficulties, personality disorders, and compassion-based approaches to treating difficulties related to high self-criticism and shame.