5 Common Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Therapist

How to Select a Good Therapist

Choosing a therapist can be a journey in itself. You've decided to go to therapy, now what? You scour profile after profile of therapists on different websites as if you were looking through dating profiles to find a future partner. Afterall, this is an important new relationship.

Will this one understand me?

This one has a kind smile...

That one has terrible grammar...

I think I get a good vibe from this one...

Once you've decided who to meet with, making sure you're a good fit to work together can be a whole other issue. I want to help make this easier by filling you in on 5 common mistakes people make when choosing a therapist.

Let’s learn how to choose a therapist you’ll like who’s also a good fit for you!

Mistake #1: Choosing a therapist based on location.

As you're deciding how to choose a therapist, you might pick one located close to you. Makes sense! But, selecting a therapist conveniently located near you as the only criteria overlooks the opportunity to learn about their expertise. While it’s helpful to make sure location is close enough, the therapists in your area might not be able to help you. This is where online therapy can be helpful, because you can choose a therapist from a larger geographical area and make sure they're a good fit.

You might prefer the privacy and atmosphere of being in a therapist’s office, and that’s totally OK. Searching for a therapist who is close to another area that you frequent is one way you can find a therapist who is located close enough. Maybe there’s an anxiety therapist who does somatic work near your dentist, or a trauma therapist who lives near your cute little nephew, who you love to visit.

Is it important that your therapist is located near you? In the grand scheme of things, I would say no. Online therapy allows you to find a good therapist from a larger catchment area and work from the convenience of your own home. In the days when I worked in person, some clients said that traveling for therapy was part of their personal time and even created a sense of accountability. Driving across town for therapy can be coupled with a trip to that cute café for a treat as you reflect after a session.

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Mistake #2: Not reading their profile.

There are many great databases to look for a therapist. Make sure to read each therapists' profile carefully because they'll identify the population they work with and their areas of expertise. Just because you like the look of a therapist or the sound of their profile doesn’t mean they will be a good fit.

Bonus tip: see if they have a website and check it out! The About Me page will often have a lot more info as profile listings usually have character limits.

Why should you work with a therapist who has expertise in your area? There are so many reasons including legalities and liability and not wasting your time and money! If you're unsure if you could be a good fit from a profile but you like the therapists' vibe, see if you can book a consultation.

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Mistake #3: Taking a referral at face value.

I’m so grateful that many of my clients have been referred to me from someone who worked with me as a client or a colleague in the past. A referral is the highest compliment. A referral says that the person who knows the therapist likes them. It doesn’t necessarily mean you would be a good fit to work together.

Tip: Google the therapist's name! Read their website and listen to podcasts they have been a guest on. See what they're about.

Scheduling a is another way to see if you are a match.

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Mistake #4: Judging your therapy experience based on one interaction.

While a consultation can provide you with an opportunity to interact with your potential therapist, it’s usually very brief and not therapeutic so you won’t get a sense of what working with them is going to be like exactly. The way many of my clients have described it is that they get an intuitive sense we would work well together. If that isn’t the case, find another therapist to meet with until you find someone you feel comfortable talking to.

Because therapy is about growing, this means feeling uncomfortable at times. There might even be moments or sessions that feel difficult, even from your earliest meetings. When you start working with a therapist, give it 3 to 5 sessions before deciding if you want to truly switch. Your therapy breakthrough maybe just around the corner, and you're just getting to know you were therapist in these first , and vice versa.

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Mistake #5: Selecting a therapist for trauma work who doesn't indicate trauma experience.

This is a little tricky, because as a trauma-informed therapist, I recognize that all therapy is trauma work in some form.

So let’s say you're experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and you come across the profile of a therapist who says they like to help people feel more connected with themselves. But they don’t indicate anywhere on their profile or website that they do trauma work. Trauma recovery is very delicate work and you want to make sure that your therapist is well trained to help you navigate your situation appropriately. Any ‘ol therapist is not likely to have the advanced training skills that this requires.

Read therapist profiles and websites carefully to make sure they indicate some form of trauma training and/or trauma expertise.

Selecting a therapist is an important stage in your therapy process. You might have several therapists over your personal growth journey based on your needs at different times. And that's completely normal. Knowing how to choose a therapist based on your needs can reduce the stress of getting started.

How to find a therapist (pop these into google!):

BCACC Counsellors
Psychology Today Find A Counsellor