How to Find the Best Therapist For Depression
First off, I’d like to say that what makes the “best therapist” is subjective and will be different for every single person who is looking. What makes a good therapist for you won’t necessarily make a good therapist for me, so what you want to find is someone who is a good fit for you and what you need in your therapy and your journey.
What makes a Good Therapist
There are several basic things to check when looking for a therapist. These items are the baseline that everyone should look for. Consider:
1. What is the person’s education? At the very least, the person should have a bachelor’s degree in one of the mental health disciplines. Newer therapists will have a Master’s degree because that is what’s been required to enter the field for many years now. However, some folks have been therapists for longer than that requirement has been in existence and so may only have a bachelor’s degree. These people will have experience that may more than compensate for their lower education level.
2. A therapist needs to be licensed or otherwise certified in their area of study. Some of the most well-known are LPC for Licensed Professional Counselors, MSW or LCSW are two of the credentials held by social workers, LMFT stands for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, PsyD or Ph.D. are psychologists, and ATR is a Registered Art Therapist. There are others so if you’re not sure what the initials after a person’s name stand for, ask them!
3. Areas of specialties. Most therapists will specialize in a couple of different areas (or maybe even only one!). You can find this by checking the therapist's professional website, or even online directories such as Psychology Today. It only makes sense that if you are looking for depression treatment, you want a therapist that specializes in depression.
These are the basics. If someone doesn’t meet those minimal requirements, I would recommend you stay away from them. Trained therapists are taught how to respect your psyche and treat you without causing harm. This training gives you a measure of security and peace of mind.
What Else You Should Look For
The other things you might consider are those things that will help you to be comfortable with the person that you will be sharing your inner-most thoughts and feelings with. These items might be very important to one person, and not important to the next. Consider the following items:
1. Gender and sexual orientation. Some people will be more comfortable with a woman while others will prefer a man. If you will be discussing issues of sexuality, you might prefer one sexual orientation over another. This may help you to be more fully understood by the therapist as they may or may not have experienced similar issues in their own lives.
2. Religion/Spirituality. If you are a religious person, you might prefer someone who shares your beliefs and values. Therapists are taught to be impartial when working, so this may not be as much of an issue as you might think, but it is about finding someone you can be comfortable with.
3. Communication Style. This might be a little bit harder to determine, but again, check out the website for clues. Is the person informal or formal? Do they use irreverent language? Do they swear? Do they talk about you and your concerns, or about their credentials?
4. Do they accept your insurance? Many therapists do not accept insurance at all and there are a number of different reasons for this. But if it is important to you that your insurance is used to pay for your therapy, this is an important consideration.
5. Specific Life Stage or Cultural Background. Again, therapists are trained to be sensitive to these types of issues, but if you feel awkward talking to someone your mom’s age, or to someone of a different racial background then this might be important to you.
6. Scheduling concerns. Most therapists will work with you to fit your schedule, but if you have very particular needs like only 1 day a week off from work or needing to see a therapist after hours, then you will want to make sure to bring this up with any potential therapists.
7. Theoretical influences or preferred therapy interventions. There are always several different ways to work on any particular issue that is brought into therapy. Because of this, different therapists will use different approaches and some might fit your personality or needs better than others. If you aren’t sure which type of therapy you’d like, don’t worry about it- research shows that the particular type of therapy you receive doesn’t really matter. What is important is the relationship between you and your therapist. But some people are looking for a particular type of therapy because of something they read or because their doctor referred them for it.
In closing, I just want to reinforce the idea that what you need in a good therapist is one that is a “good fit” for you. You need to find someone who you can communicate with easily and who makes you feel supported and listened to. Once you know a therapist has met the basic requirements of training and certification, then the rest is finding someone that gels with you. Ask for recommendations from friends, family, and medical professionals who know you. Check out the therapist’s web page and maybe directory listings. And then take advantage of any free consultations that the therapist offers to get a feel for who that person is. However, know that your initial communications with a therapist might be awkward due to nervousness. Because of this, it’s a good idea to give yourself a few sessions to get comfortable with your new therapist before you decide to quit or switch to someone new.
I hope this article helps you find a therapist! If you’d like to talk with me further about depression treatment, please follow the link!