Finding the Right Therapist

Finding the Right Therapist

There is no doubt that making the decision to come for therapy can be a huge and daunting step. You’ve recognized a need, you’ve geared yourself up to making the first move, but now how to choose?? 

Having options is great, but if you’re anything like me, the more choice there is, the more overwhelming it can feel, plus you may soon realize that therapists come in different shapes and sizes so to speak – different titles, training backgrounds and experiences. I appreciate that for some, trying to make the decision on who to see can feel so overwhelming and confusing, that it feels safer and easier to give up or put it off for a few more weeks…months…which may turn into longer. 

There are loads of research studies that highlight how the relationship between the therapist and client (aka the therapeutic relationship) matters more in terms of recovery than the type of therapy chosen, which shows us the importance of finding a good match. Having a strong therapeutic relationship allows us to feel safe and contained enough as we work up to sharing our experiences, thoughts and feelings, and collaboratively move towards positive change. 

Ok, so where do I start??

With the above in mind, here are some tips for embarking on your therapy journey and choosing a therapist:

  • Identify your specific needs

Reflect on why you have made the decision to come to therapy, and what you hope to see as outcomes. This will help structure any initial enquiries you have with potential therapists. Don’t worry if you can’t think of any specific goals/outcomes, a good therapist will help you figure this out along the way.

There are different types of therapists – counsellors, psychotherapists, psychologists to name a few, and you may find it helpful to compare and select the type of professional most suited to your needs. The main differences lie in their education, training, and scope of practice. Psychologists have the most extensive training and can diagnose and treat a wide range of disorders, conduct research, and teach. Psychotherapists encompass various professionals who provide talk therapy, including counselors and psychologists. Counselors typically have a master’s degree and focus on helping individuals navigate life challenges. 

Some people like to research different therapy models beforehand and get a sense of what fits their personal style, needs and areas to work on, which is great. On the other hand, it can be equally beneficial to be guided by the professional, and sometimes there may be nuances in why a particular model may be recommended for you over another one that in general terms may look like a good fit on paper. 

  • Consider your preferences

For many, the gender, age and/or cultural background of the therapist is important when they consider who they would feel comfortable sharing information and experiences with. It’s up to you to think about the type of person you imagine yourself opening up to, everyone is different – some prefer to see a therapist of the same background whereas others would feel more comfortable seeing someone from a completely different background – both are understandable in their own contexts. If this is the case for you, you can narrow your search accordingly, and it is equally fine to not have a preference. You may find that many therapists in the UAE will be active on their clinic’s social media, so having a look at this content can be a really helpful way of getting a sense of what they may be like.

Side note – it can sometimes be beneficial to see a therapist who ‘goes against the grain’ if there are certain assumptions e.g., if you experience females in your life to be quite judgmental, you may not want to see a female therapist for fear of this happening in the sessions…again totally understandable, BUT it can be a really useful part of the therapy ‘work’ and change process to experience a female who doesn’t fit what you expect…

  • Consider practical points

Think about practical factors that may impact your therapy experience, such as the therapist’s location and fees. Check if they accept your health insurance if that is an option for you. Consider if you have any specific availability requirements too e.g., evening or weekend appointments. 

Ok so I’ve figured out what I am looking for, now where to look?

There are a number of ways you can find a therapist, for example:

  • Seek recommendations from health professionals – You could ask your primary care doctor if they recommend anyone for therapy or a particular clinic.
  • Seek recommendations from people you trust – asking family, friends or online forums if you feel comfortable doing so can be helpful, as personal recommendations often will come from people you trust. But equally hold in mind that what works for one person may not be suitable for the next. 
  • Search Engines – Using Google to search for local clinics can be one way of conducting your search, and you could visit each website and check out the clinician profiles to see if there is anyone who sounds like they could be a good match. Look out for reviews or client testimonials on their website or social media too. 
  • Insurance directory – Check with your health insurance provider to see if they have a directory of therapists in your area who accept your insurance, and then look them up to gather more information and narrow your list.

The search has been narrowed, what’s next??

The next step could be to inquire about a brief initial screening call with those on your narrowed down list and ask for additional information that may help you make your decision. Some key points may include:

  1. Experience – Let them know the general areas you would like to focus on in therapy and check if they have experience in working with something similar
  2. Treatment Approaches – You could ask if they would recommend a particular therapy approach based on what you have described and consider whether this aligns with your preferences and needs. If it isn’t what you expected, then perhaps explore why. 
  3. Practical Elements – do they have availability? If so, when? What should you expect as the next step?
  4. Trust your Intuition – Pay attention to how you feel during these screening calls. Did you feel listened to? Did you get a sense of warmth from the person you were talking to? Did they make effort to try to understand what you were sharing? These can be helpful points to reflect on after a call, especially given the aforementioned importance of the therapeutic alliance. 

Hopefully some of these tips will come in handy to help you make a decision about whom to start therapy with. But remember, it Is ok to see how it goes and if you find yourself feeling like it may not be a great fit after all – that’s ok! It can be really helpful to discuss this with the therapist first before deciding to switch therapists, as there are often things that can be addressed together that have a positive impact on the alliance. 

If you would like to discuss what to expect from therapy or to chat with some of our therapists to see if they would be a good fit for you, then don’t hesitate to get in touch – we would be happy to answer any questions you may have.


Written by: Dr Gurveen Ranger

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