How to choose a good psychotherapist that can truly help you
I have been told by numerous people that they have wasted their time in psychotherapy with other therapists. That is upsetting. Psychotherapy can be one of the most valuable things you will ever do. It can change your life in so many valuable ways and raise the odds considerably that your future will be the best it can be. In fact, I would go as far as to say that positive psychotherapy is the greatest thing most people can do to create success and happiness in their lives. Here are questions and my answers to consider when choosing a psychotherapist and to ensure psychotherapy is not a waste of your time:
1. Does he/she have a PhD, this degree or that? The degree does not matter. What matters is if he or she can help you resolve your issue effectively. Some of the greatest healers, teachers and therapists I have ever had did not have academic degrees. And I have been to some that should have had their degrees and licenses taken away. Likewise, some brilliant teachers and therapists have had PhDs and I respect them highly for their work. My suggestion: Don’t worry about the degree. Focus on the person. Do you feel good about them? Trust them? Have you been referred by someone you trust? Have you read their website, seen their reviews or testimonials? Use your intuition and your own innate intelligence; listen to what your inner sense is telling you when choosing a psychotherapist.
2. Is the therapist experienced with, or have they suffered with the problem or issue you are seeking help for? This would be best. Of course there is no way you can expect every therapist to have suffered every problem. Just be sure they are experienced and have worked successfully with clients that have had the same or similar issues. If they have suffered from the issue themselves and have successfully healed it, that is a big bonus! For the record, I have suffered from and have successfully resolved the following issues, as well as helped others resolve the same: social phobia, major anxiety, social anxiety, depression, Complex PTSD, loss of family and children, loss of basically everything, major life transitions, divorce, death of my mother at 24 years of age, alienation from family, fears, panic attacks, severe facial blushing and sweating, considerable childhood physical, mental and emotional trauma and abuse, sadistic abuse, lack of parenting, trust issues, self worth, and lack of confidence, major fears around self expression and public speaking, consistent bullying, humiliation and ridicule, anger, resentment, mental anguish, self image and eating disorders, major difficulties in becoming visible and getting acknowledged and succeeding in life; as well as abuse and injustice concerning family legal issues, spiritual abuse, families with alcoholism and drug addiction. This list is not complete, though it should give you the idea of my life journey and what I have experienced and have had to deal with and resolve in my own life. I consider all of my past to have been a great blessing and it has greatly helped me to help others with similar traumas and issues.
3. What kind methods or therapeutic modalities should you seek out? It is wise to find a therapist that has training and is using methods proven to work best in the areas that you need help. If you have experienced emotional or mental trauma, or have social anxiety or depression issues, then your therapist should have specific experience or training in this area. This sounds like common sense, though not everyone thinks to ask, or even thinks they have the right to ask. You do have this right, and you should ask. It is a big mistake to assume all therapists can help with all matters, or have the training to do so. Working with trauma requires certain skills. Without a skilled therapist, just recounting the story can be re-traumatizing, causing even more harm. You need a counselor or therapist that is trained in more than compassionate listening. Look for a positive, holistic, transpersonal, body-orientated psychotherapist using mindfulness methods, somatic sensing and focusing. Gestalt Therapy and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) are also highly effective methods that I often use with clients. EMDR can also be very helpful. Find a therapist that brings you into true psychological healing and self-led transformation. Also, find a spiritually and holistically orientated psychotherapist, sometimes referred to as a transpersonal psychotherapist.
4. What does your heart say? It matters far more what your heart tells you than what other people say. A recommendation from someone you trust, or even testimonials can call to you. Though in the end your own personal experience is what counts the most. It can take a number of sessions to be sure, or sometimes you may know right away. I suggest meeting and interviewing a few therapists. In the end you need to go with your own gut feeling.
5. What to look for that should make you want to run? If you feel over-analyzed, judged, labeled, put in a box. Remember, the therapist is not God. They should be in a co-creative, empathic relationship with you. They should not have one overly strong or narrow method, religious or other single philosophical or cultish point of view. A good therapist should be able to meet you where you are at with acceptance. They don‘t know everything nor can they. You want to feel cared for by them. Loved in the Universal sense. No therapist can ever cross the line into a human love relationship with their client. It is inappropriate and should be reported if they make such advances or accept such advances from clients.
6. Does your therapist believe in God and have a spiritual practice? Here is where I can get in a lot of disagreement with other therapists. I believe you want the answer to be ‘yes’. I am not saying God and spirituality need to be overtly present and discussed in every session, that is not necessary at all. Nor do we need to be of all the same beliefs. It has more to do with the type of space being held, the container created that allows the extent of what can happen within it. And there are also times in therapy it will be important and greatly helpful to be able to consciously discuss spirituality, God, and spiritual life practices. Sometimes they will come up as part of a process. If your psychotherapist is uncomfortable with this discussion, I suggest finding someone new. Ultimately, psychotherapy, as all healing and transformation lead to healing our separation with our soul, Spirit or God.
7. Is your psychotherapist educated and knowledgeable in at least basic natural health principles, nutrition, diet, physiology and natural medicine? It can help you tremendously and save you tons of hours and dollars if your psychotherapist can recognize enough to suggest that you seek nutritional, hormonal or dietary advice, and is able to refer you to a nutritionist or naturopath. Why? Because a client can be complaining of anxiety or depression, and much else, that is connected to a physiological or nutritional problem. Talking forever about it only on the emotional or mental levels without addressing these issues on the physical and lifestyle levels is a waste of your time and money. It usually is not either or, though it can be, it is most often a combination. Having a lifetime background and practice in holistic, naturopathic and nutritional medicine has helped me take a holistic approach that has greatly benefited my clients over the years. See here the natural health company I founded.
8. Can or will your therapist also be a coach as needed? Should you seek coaching or psychotherapy? I practice as both a psychotherapist and a personal coach. I have also been to several of both. A lot of people have confusion between the two. More often than not I see people going to coaches and are still stuck, because they really need a good therapist to move them through certain blocks. Patterns such as fear, procrastination, anxiety and self confidence issues usually have roots down into the past and subconscious and are best addressed with a psychotherapist. Many coaches try to do some therapy, though not being their real skill, it is not helping or serving the client’s best interests (money and time). And I have seen it the other way around. I see people in therapy and it is really time to get coaching and move on into life, though the therapist does not have these skills, or does not offer them. After the healing is done, people often need to learn skills and have real support to realize their dreams and goals. A great coach can help with this. When I interview a prospective new client, I decide with them what will serve them best, coaching or therapy. Then along the way, when the time is right we switch to what is most needed, therapy or coaching. Having both skills and being willing to use them when appropriate gives me an advantage, as well as my clients.
9. Do you feel comfortable speaking to him or her about anything and everything? Is he or she easy-going, fun, laughs easy, respectful, has good boundaries, makes you feel comfortable, real, down to earth, easy to speak with, highly empathic, intuitive, heart-centered, genuine and warm? These are qualities you will find in a good therapist. Your psychotherapist, counselor or coach needs to be very approachable and you need to feel great about them. Otherwise, it is just not going to work very well. You deserve a truly deep, transformative relationship with your therapist or coach. Don’t settle for less. Choose wisely from the very start.
Wishing you the best in health and healing,
I enjoy working with people around the world and I am available by phone, Zoom, FaceTime, or in-person for counseling and coaching.