Finding the Right Match—in a Therapist

October 6, 2020
Mental Health

Younger or older? Female or male? Here's how to choose the therapist that's right for you.

Imagine this: You’ve been searching for the one. You’ve scrolled through countless apps and gone on endless dates, and just when you think you’ve found the person...you realize they’re unavailable or too far away, or that they come with a host of other deal-breakers. We’re talking about therapy here, but the dating analogy is hard to miss. 

Just like with dating, the struggle to find a good connection can take time. After scouring the internet, asking friends for recommendations, making cold calls, and attending first consult sessions, you may still wind up empty handed. Add in trying to find a therapist who’s affordable, has availability, and works in an office nearby—and it can feel like you’re looking for a unicorn.

Luckily, there are some approaches that can help not just narrow the field, but also broaden your chances of finding a match. Keep reading for more on what they are and how to use them in your search.

A strategy that works

As a starting place, it’s helpful to understand that there are different types (or modalities) of therapy. Some of these are highly structured and based on building specific skills, while others are more exploratory. Some delve deeper into your past relationships, and others will focus more on the present and current problems you’re dealing with. Sometimes therapists may blend these modalities to best meet your needs.

If you’ve considered the therapist’s modality and decided it’s something you want to try, go ahead and schedule a meeting. But, just as with dating, approach it with both an open mind and a high bar for quality. After that first appointment, run through the following points to make sure they ring true for you: 

  • You were able to speak openly and honestly about what you were bringing to the space.
  • You don’t feel judged. 
  • You feel emotionally safe, heard, and cared for.
  • You feel the sense that your therapist “gets it.”
  • You leave feeling like thoughtful questions were asked, even some that you never would have come up with on your own.

Once you’ve gone through those initial bullets, dig a little deeper. Here are a few more considerations to cycle through:

  • Some people want a therapist who is very similar to them. Others prefer someone who is not like them in any capacity. Think about your preferences and what would feel most comfortable.
  • If you just can’t stand your therapist’s voice or something about them triggers you, that isn’t something you’re likely to just get over. You won’t develop a secret way to hear them differently, and that’s okay and a valid reason to walk away. 
  • Sometimes two people just aren’t compatible. And just like dating, it’s never a good idea to settle. While it’s hard to terminate the relationship, you likely won’t reap the full benefit if things just aren’t clicking. 
  • Boundaries are important. Your therapist won’t be your friend, but they will help model how healthy relationships should function. 

Understand that you may not leave your first few therapy sessions with answers. You may be thinking, “so how will I know if it’s working?" You’ll start to notice the things that initially brought you to therapy are shifting and changing, and hopefully for the better.

Finding a therapist takes time. It may involve several sessions to get to know each other. It takes trust and communication. It’s hard work and can be challenging. But when it’s good, it’s great, and all the work you put in to find that match feels completely worth it.

Originally published on Octave’s blog.

Kelli Morin is a licensed social worker practicing in New York City. She received her BS in Business Administration from Northeastern University, and a MSW from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College.



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