Find The Right Therapist

How did I, as a client first and then as a therapist, find the right therapist? I am writing this article as both a licensed psychologist and as a client that was in need of therapy. I have tried therapy a number of times in my life. Once in college to help with adjustment depression, then again in graduate school as a requirement, but also knew it would be helpful, then finally to help with becoming a better supervisor after being promoted to a program director of a challenging program. After 4 therapists, I came to the conclusion that finding the right therapist for me was very difficult. This is not to say they were bad therapists, but they just didn’t fit my needs. Of course, I didn’t really know what I wanted, more like I knew what I didn’t want, only after a few sessions. I was told I was a difficult client at one point because I was closed off in session. The truth was I just didn’t feel comfortable sharing because I wasn’t connected to the therapist. They weren’t the right therapist for me..Probably would have been nice to share that information with each therapist, but that was part of why I was in therapy.

I told the first therapist I was feeling better and didn’t need therapy anymore. I was in college at the time and didn’t really have the motivation to continue or look for a new therapist. The second therapist I tried to talk to about my concerns and I was not satisfied with the response and stopped going. The third therapist I stayed with because I had to complete my mandatory hours of therapy, but was not open at all. Although, this therapist tried to challenge me, I was just not comfortable with their style. At that point I was working on myself independently and figured a lot out on my own.

A few years later, after I was promoted to a middle level management position overseeing a very challenging program, I needed help overcoming my anxiety to become a better leader and supervisor. This time I was armed with the knowledge of being a licensed psychologist and knew what to ask and how to sort through the literally thousands of therapists in my area. I finally found a therapist that understood me and matched my needs. He offered suggestions and posed questions that made me think about myself leading to valuable insight..I was finally able to open up in therapy look forward to each session. .

The point of this autobiographical account of my therapy journey is don’t give up. When you are prepared and do your research, you can probably spare yourself the fruitless sessions and waste of time/money. Also,to help you understand that finding a therapist is a challenge for everyone. I have been studying and working in psychology since I was 15 years old. Even with all that experience in psychology, I still had a difficult time. There are so many different styles and personalities to sort through. The following Is how I finally made that breakthrough and found the therapist that worked for my style.

  1. I did some soul searching and narrowed down what exactly I thought was my issue and what type of personality would match mine.
  2. The next step I knew from my studies and career, but when looking for a therapist one should become familiar with the types of therapy available and what is particularly effective for their problem. I.e. Cognitive Behavioral therapy, Psychodynamic, Humanistic, Gestalt, Solution focused, EMDR to name a few. Fortunately, I knew what theories wouldn’t work for me, but that is something you will need to figure out during your consultations.
  3. I searched through various therapist lists and search sites reading countless profiles to find keywords, sentiments, and concepts that fit with my own ideals and values. Read between the lines, so to speak, and you can tell a lot about a person through how they write.
  4. After narrowing down my top choices, I called them and had my questions ready to go. Anyone that tried to make an appointment without getting to know me or why I was seeking therapy was automatically crossed off. I am not going to meet with someone who just assumes they can treat me without knowing what my needs are. This is my personal preference and not based on anything from my training or education.
  5. For those that made it to the second phase of the interview process, I explained what my issues were and began my questions.
    1. What theory do you utilize in your therapy? This should be explained in a manner that you understand, and not in a bunch psychological jargon.
    2. How does that apply to my particular issue?
    3. How would you treat my issue?
    4. How many sessions do you think I will need? This is a test question. My own belief is that there shouldn’t be a specific answer to this question. How can anyone say how long sessions will last based on a brief phone call. I looked for answers that felt honest, genuine and authentic.
    5. At this point, I had enough of an instinct developed to say if this therapist is worth scheduling a session with. I trusted my gut and it paid off. This might be the first person you talk to or the tenth. I would rather waste time on the phone then in the office.

Of course, finances are the other primary force behind your decision. But I encourage you to find a therapist that matches your personality and needs, then try to work out the financial/insurance piece. It might not be possible, but they can at least refer you to a like minded therapist. There are plenty of options for working with insurance.


Dr. Greg Schwarz, Psy.D is a licensed psychologist and Co-owner of Burbank Therapeutic Centers, A psychological corporation in Burbank, CA. Dr. Schwarz has been working in the mental health field for more than 20 years. Currently providing individual therapy in Burbank, CA, he specializes in severe anxiety, panic attacks, OCD, with a sub-specialty working with older adults. BTC was founded on the principles that therapy should be specifically designed for the person seeking help and the therapist and client should have similar styles in order for therapy to work. Each client who contacts BTC is thoroughly screened to ensure we are able to effectively treat them, This avoids unnecessary sessions and allows us to individualize the therapy to each person due to the advanced knowledge we have in their particular problem area.

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