Are you Looking for a New Therapist? Try Scheduling with More than One.
Updated: Feb 8
Are you looking to start or restart therapy in the new year? It’s hard right now, not only to find a therapist but to find one that is the right fit. Here’s my advice: schedule with more than one therapist before you commit to therapy with them.
Wait a minute, did I just suggest that you date around to find the right therapist? Yes, yes, I did.
Aside from a long-term romantic relationship, this is likely one of the most important relationships you will have if you are committed to your growth and healing your mental health. A popular theory is that the counseling style or method is what makes therapy work. However, there is extensive literature that points to the relationship between therapist and client as being one of the best outcomes for successful therapy.
This was first reported in the Match Project, a long-term study of group therapy using Cognitive Behavior Therapy, the 12 Steps, and Motivational Interviewing. Researchers had multiple groups meet using one theory and used the same set of groups for fidelity. They wanted to know which theoretical approach was best for outcomes.
Initially, the study found that all three were producing similar outcomes. However, it wasn’t about the theory that participants were reporting on. Participants reported that they felt like their group counselor listened to them. They trusted them. They felt heard and seen by them. They had sat in these groups long enough to establish rapport with the clinicians. The relationship won out over the standalone theoretical approach.
In later studies, Motivational Interviewing showed slightly better outcomes, however, this is not surprising to me since his method is client-centered and based on working evoking change using the client’s own language.
As a therapist with nearly two decades of experience, I am delighted when a new potential client will contact me and let me know that they want to schedule a new appointment with me, and they are also scheduling with other therapists. I wish clients used this approach more and felt confident in being open about what they are doing. When I get an email like this, I do a happy little dance and say yes, every time. Because this process is not about me, at least not the personal me. I know how hard it is to find a good hairstylist, and that’s just hair that grows back! This is a person that you are entrusting your story with, your psyche, your self that has been injured, and that hopefully wants to find growth, healing, and purpose. I would never be so selfish as to deny you the opportunity to check me or another therapist out.
My favorite thing to say in a first session to a client is this: your homework after today’s session is to sit with how you feel after meeting with me. If you would like to reschedule now you can, and I also want to welcome you taking some time to digest some of what we talked about before making your next appointment. I think this frees the client up from feeling like they have to choose me.
Don’t hesitate to schedule with a few therapists before you commit to therapy with them. Sitting with someone for that first therapy hour, and then taking the time to journal, check in with yourself, or chat with a friend about how it went is a good system for determining a good fit. And you deserve to have a therapist that sees and hears you.
My one caveat to this process is that you must commit to one after doing this process. Three sessions with three different counselor’s are good enough to check someone out. Ten is too much. Even after you commit, take time to build a rapport with your therapist- if a few sessions down the road it doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to find another therapist. However, do tell your counselor that this is what you are doing, as well as what you are experiencing. In the long run, it won’t help you to jump from one counselor to the next, but you do have the agency to choose the therapy and therapist that is right for you.
Good luck in your therapist search!
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Thank you for reading, and warm wishes to you and yours!