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How to Choose a Good Therapist

Updated on November 27, 2011

I'm from NYC, where people seem to frequent their local shrink more often than their local general practitioner, and I've no qualms about stating that I have been to several throughout my life. Note that I did not say I've been to several *good* shrinks -- and that's because most of them, IMHO, are crap. Shrinks are, after all, just people, and not everyone is good at their job. But if you can find a good shrink, they are worth their weight in gold. Perhaps even diamonds. So if you're looking for a good shrink to help you sort something out, take a look at these tips for choosing a good therapist who can help you with your issues.

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Know What You Need

Now, I'm not saying you need to know what sort of advice you need, but you should be aware of the communication method you are looking for in a shrink, because they are not all alike. Many of them will just sit there and listen to you talk about your problems, without giving you any feedback beyond asking, "And how does that make you feel?" And hey, this might be what you're looking for. But if you're like me, you would rather not pay a fortune to sit and ramble on without getting something in return. After all, I could always sit in my living room and talk to myself for free and get the same results. Therefore, it's entirely acceptable to ask the shrink beforehand what their style is, so that you don't waste your time and money on sessions you will get nothing out of.

Choose Someone You Will Be Comfortable With

Obviously, you can't know their personality before you meet with them, but there are some things you should be able to figure out in advance of booking a session. Gender may be important to you, and you should take that into account before you sign up with someone. For example, if you were abused by your father when you were a child, you might not be comfortable discussing this issue with a male -- so don't choose one. Then again, you may be extremely uncomfortable discussing anything with women, and you just might need a male therapist. Age may also play a part in your decision -- some people are simply not comfortable discussing their problems and taking advice from someone who is considerably older, or younger, than themselves. These are simple things you can, and should, take into consideration before contacting a shrink, as it could save you valuable time.

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth can be a useful thing, and if you've got a friend who recommends someone, that might be a great choice for you. Then again, we aren't all the same, and one man's star therapist could be another's nightmare. If you do go by word of mouth, be sure to run through the criteria I've already mentioned and be sure you are still a good fit. It's important to note, however, that if the shrink is not compatible with your needs, you should make every effort not to allow yourself to get sucked into feeling obligated to continue going -- some people will feel this obligation due to the personal recommendation of a friend. You should not feel obligated to continue if you are not comfortable, so be sure you listen to your inner self on that one.

Style of Therapy

While you won't be able to determine the shrink's communication (or lack thereof) style until you've had a session, you can determine their basic philosophy and style beforehand. Hypnotherapy is a growing field and many shrinks these days are also hypnotherapists. If this is not something you want to try, be clear about that when you first make contact so you can know upfront whether or not they prefer that method.

Don't Be Afraid to Change Therapists

It's your money, your time, and your issues. If you do not feel a connection with your new shrink, it's fine to give them another crack, but do not waste your time with someone you know you will not be able to open up to. Therapists realize they are not going to be compatible with everyone, and they will not take it personally if you decide to switch to someone else. This is their job, and yours is a professional relationship, not a personal one, so they will view it as a business decision -- so should you.

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