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What to look for in a therapist.

We’re hardwired to prefer convenience. Case in point: when’s the last time you crossed town for something you could’ve gotten around the corner? Even if the product or service on the other side of the city is noticeably superior to the one on your block you’re still tempted to make due with the closer option. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, time is money. But when you’re dealing with something more important than where you buy your groceries or take your laundry, you don’t want to cut corners. Searching for a therapist/counselor is one of those tasks too crucial to leave to chance, so here are some points to keep in mind.

  • Areas of expertise. Not all therapists specialize in the same subjects. For instance, some are more knowledgeable about addiction while others concentrate on family and marital issues. Figuring out exactly where you need help is a great place to start narrowing down your search.
  • Treatment philosophy. Therapists don’t always agree on the best methods of counseling a patient, even if they have identical training. Choose a therapist whose methods you feel would work best for you. Many therapists explain their preferred methods on their websites, or you can always call and ask.
  • Availability and location. More people are beginning to recognize the benefits of therapy, which means it might be tricky to find a therapist who is accepting new patients. Start your search as early as you can, noting where and when they’re available so you can see who fits your schedule best.
  • Price. Counseling can be costly, but don’t let that deter you. If going to a private clinic isn’t an option you can always see a therapist at the hospital or a school counselor if you’re a student. Also remember you might be able to claim at least a portion of your sessions through health insurance if you have coverage.
  • Education and experience. Depending on the level of treatment you need and/or personal preference, you might be inclined to seek a professional with more education or experience. That’s not to say novice therapists can’t be of great help, but it’s something to keep in mind if the amount of time they’ve spent practicing is important to you.
  • Gender. The value of counseling comes from being able to open up freely and completely, which you can only do if you’re fully at ease with your therapist. If you’re better able to relax and express yourself with a certain gender, consider this when choosing a therapist.
  • Religion. Some therapists incorporate faith into their practice. Patients who are religious often find this to be a significant source of comfort and healing.
  • News and reviews. Of course most therapists aren’t famous, but it’s prudent to look them up and find out if they have a reputation (good or bad). Similarly, if someone you know has any experience with therapy or counseling, be sure to ask them for recommendations and advice.

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