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How to Choose a Therapist

Many people consider pursuing therapy in San Diego, but many aren’t sure how to begin looking for the right therapist.  After making the decision to go to therapy, finding a San Diego therapist can be a daunting task as San Diego is a large city and there are many therapists from which to choose.  But, with a plan and a checklist, it doesn’t have to be too difficult.

First off, many people don’t know the difference between the types of therapists that exist.   The following is a breakdown of the different types of counselors you’ll most likely see listed when searching for a therapist.

Different Types of Therapists

Marriage & Family Therapist: A Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) is a master’s level therapist whose training focuses on individuals in the context of relationships.  It’s often believed they only counsel married couples and families, but that is incorrect.  Their caseload majority is frequently individuals and the couples they counsel are often not married.  It is very common for an individual’s problems to be related to some type of relationship (whether from their family of origin, current family, friends, co-workers, etc) and a Marriage & Family Therapist has the education and training to address these issues.

Clinical Social Worker: A Licensed Clinical Social Worker is a master’s level therapist.   They have a lot of training in case management and are highly desired in hospitals, non-profits and other agencies where wrap around case management is needed.   They also have significant training in talk therapy and make a good choice as a therapist.

Psychologist: A licensed Psychologist is a Ph.D. level therapist who has a great deal of training in talk therapy and research.  They are also a good choice as a therapist.

Psychiatrist: A psychiatrist isn’t typically a therapist and they generally don’t have a lot of training in therapy.  They are a medical doctor specializing in the area of psychology and predominantly prescribe medication.  They are able to provide “talk therapy”, but that is not their forte.  People normally go to them to receive prescriptions for medication.

Make Contact

After you narrow down what type(s) of therapist(s) you want to seek out, another good step is to make contact with them.   The majority of San Diego counselors will give you 10 or 15 minutes of time over the phone to ask questions.  Many therapists don’t answer their phone often during business hours because they are in session and don’t have a secretary, but should call you back within 24 hours.  This is your opportunity to ask any questions you might have and a get an initial “feel” for them, their personality and how they interact.  My advice is that if a therapist will not give you this time, keep looking.  When talking to them, you might give them a brief synopsis of what you’re struggling with and ask them if they are experienced working with your situation.  You may want to ask them other questions such as how they approach therapy, if they are more directive or more passive and how long they have been practicing.  Remember you are hiring them and you have the right to interview.  A few therapists give a discounted in-office session or free in-office consultation, but most give free consultations over the phone.

Schedule Your Therapy Appointment

After your phone consultation, I suggest you rely on intuition to make your decision.  The best therapist is not always the one who has the most education, or went to the best school or has been in practice the longest.  Most likely, the best therapist is going to be the one you felt most drawn to and felt most comfortable with over the phone.  So, with that said, I think your decision is probably made and it’s time to set up an appointment.  If you got a false impression over the phone, that will be very evident within the first few sessions, and if you’re not comfortable, then listen to your gut and start again.  But, normally, your intuition will guide you in the right direction.  Good luck!