I've met numerous individuals who have been "therapy shopping" for a while and have started and stopped or kept going when they weren't sure if they were progressing.
Here's how you can be a good consumer of psychotherapy.
You're looking for someone you can trust.
You're seeking someone who can join you on this personal journey of self actualization, a pathway to healing and to feeling better. Sometimes therapy also has bumpier parts and you need someone you can really trust as you allow your messiness to unfold and take one step at a time while you move onward and upward....and navigating the slip backwards and forward at times.
So, here are a few tips to finding the right therapist as you "therapist shop".
1) Take your time.
I know, I know sometimes we reach out for help when we are feeling ever so desperate, ever so scared and ever so alone. I get that. I really really do.
And, I also want you to be in your prefrontal cortex- the part of your brain that makes decision and can think clearly, when choosing your therapist.
If you're stressed, take a few deep breaths, call a friend, repeat a mantra "I will find the right person, let me take things slow. I will find the right one, it's a matter of who. Taking the right steps will get me there."
2)Come up with a list of what feels important to you. What are you struggling with?
Are you very anxious? Are you feeling worried but don't even know why? Is there a chaotic situation you are stuck in? Are you having some disturbing events that keep popping up for you? Are you going through a divorce? Are you having obsessive thoughts and feel like you can't leave your house?
Write down your 2 or 3 most upsetting symptoms so you can clearly say
"I am struggling with x,y and z, what ways do you treat these issues?"
3) Find out if they have experience working with those issues.
Be sure you are going to someone who has adequate training to help you. Check that they have updated trainings in modalities that have been proven to work in the past 5-10 years. The field of psychology keeps changing so make sure you have someone who is up to date with interventions. Talk therapy with someone who has skills from a Masters or PHD/PSyD program is a foundational piece of the work. A good deal of the therapy work is talk, that's how we connect with each other and get to know information that's important.
I strongly believe that you will benefit from choosing to go to someone who has additional post graduate training, and has invested in their clinical skills beyond their schooling. If you're struggling with obsessive thoughts, you will need someone who has extensive training in treatment of OCD. If you're struggling with trauma related symptoms such as flashbacks or hyper vigilance, look for someone who has training in treatment of trauma symptoms. If you're having anxious or depressed thoughts, find someone who specifically knows how to treat your exact issue.
This is your health, and it's an investment. Make sure you choose the right fit for you and your needs so you can get back out to the dance floor of your life.
4)Trust your GUT
Listen to what your instinct is telling you. When you get on the phone, when you call someone or meet someone, listen to what the inner voice of wisdom tells you. You'll be taking an important step, make sure it feels right!
5) Trust the process
Taking your time and getting a sense of what feels right is important. It will also get you to finding and beginning to work with the right person for YOU.
This is a wonderful step to be taking for your mental health. Good therapy helps you go far and live a life that feels better.
Good luck in your search!