Virtually every week, a colleague, a friend, or a friend of a client, asks me to recommend a therapist to them. As much as I hate doing this (mostly because the pool of talented therapists is about the size of a puddle), I’m always willing to help. Left to your own devices you will pick poorly. Below is an incomplete list of the reasons you’ll likely suck at picking your own therapist.
1. You’re a layperson, and lay people don’t know what to look for.
2. You’re going to pick by price. Newsflash: “My therapist is the cheapest!” is terrible marketing for a shrink. I’ve seen moderately priced therapists throughout my life – and I’ve been in therapy for a total of 19 years. Do you want to be in therapy for 19 years?
3. You’ll pick by availability. “My therapist had sooo much availability, I had my choice of 6:00 p.m. appointments Monday through Friday.” That sort of availability is not a good sign.
4. You’ll pick by neighborhood. Does that really sound wise to you?
5. You’ll pick the pretty, thin, ugly, fat, gay, straight, young, old, shrink-who-represents-your-race. This is the exact criterion you use to find partners, and we know what the likelihood of that working out is.
6. You don’t know the difference between a therapist who claims to have specialized training and one who actually has specialized training. Furthermore, you don’t know that a therapist who is trained in something isn’t whom you want to see. You want to see the therapist who is certified in their specialty.
7. You don’t know how to look for those therapists who are going to be different, and you don’t know what differences to look for. Some differences should be avoided, such as this nut (linked to here), and this one (linked to here). That said, you do want to find a therapist who is different, because if you choose a run-of-the-mill therapist, you’ll have a run-of-the-mill experience. Refer to the last sentence in point #2.