Finding a Mental Health Professional

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Starting to look for a mental health professional may seem overwhelming at first.  Someone may refer or suggest you to someone, or your parents may set up an appointment after talking to another professional. It is important to know that you have rights in this process, and should be able to ask questions and feel comfortable with the professional who will be working with you.

The truth is, even if a therapist is referred to you and seems to have all the right credentials, sometimes they just aren’t a good match for other reasons. Just like a doctor, dentist, or specialist you have the right to look around, ask questions, and switch professionals if something does not feel right.

Here are some suggestions and questions to ask the therapist that can help increase the chances you find a mental health ally you feel comfortable with:

  • Most importantly, what is your gut feeling? How does it feel to sit with or talk with this person?  Some others initial things to note: What is their body language? Do they seem engaged with what you are telling them? Do you feel defensive or like this person is on your side?
  • Ask the professional what their general philosophy or approach to therapy is. Write down the answer and look the at therapy approach later – is it something that has been found to be effective? Does it emphasize strengths? A therapist should have a foundation they practice from, and a vague answer to this question is a red flag!
  • Ask the professional what improvements you can expect to see and how often you would work together.
  • Ask the professional how they keep track of improvements and goal setting. Mental health therapy is meant to help you meet goals you set with the professional, it should not be a time each week to chit chat for the next twenty years!
  • Ask the professional if they have worked with people who are similar to you. If you are an adolescent with anxiety, and the therapist has worked almost exclusively with adults – they may not be a good fit! Mental health professionals have “specialties” just like doctors.

It can take time to find a therapist you feel comfortable with, so don’t get discouraged! There are many wonderful therapists out there, and professionals are fully aware that they won’t be a perfect match with everyone who calls or is referred. Remember that this is your mental health and your life and well-being.

Sources:

NAMI

Goodtherapy

Do you have any other suggestions for questions to ask a new therapist? Let us know if these suggestions were helpful in the comments!

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Moderator ★

Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: https://sova.pitt.edu/i-need-help-now We look forward to talking to you!

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