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A Guide To Finding Your Ideal Therapist

Cassandra Schraft, MSEd, LPC

“I tried therapy and it didn’t work for me.”

Sound familiar?  This sentiment is not uncommon.

As a therapist with nearly a decade of experience, one thing I have come to realize is this:  It’s not therapy that didn’t work for you.  It’s the therapist.

In my years of practice, I’ve realized that not every therapist is the right fit for every individual.  Therapists are people first.  And like all people, they bring their unique experiences and perspectives to the counseling room, making each therapeutic relationship distinct.  While some matches flourish, others struggle to take root.

Here are some things to consider to help you determine if a therapist is the right match for you:


Specialization and Expertise

Not all therapists have the same areas of expertise.  While education and experience are valuable, the key may lie in finding a provider with specialized training in the specific challenges you are facing.  Many therapists choose to expand their training, education, and skillset in areas that they feel they excel or are passionate about, which can significantly impact the effectiveness of your sessions.  A deep understanding of your unique challenges can offer insights and interventions that resonate more profoundly.

It is also important not to let yourself fall for the myth that more years of experience or a higher level of education automatically equates to better care.  The relevance of their education and experience to your specific concern matters more than the sheer quantity.  A more prestigious degree or more years in the field may mean very little if that experience doesn’t translate in a way that meets your needs.


Therapeutic Approach

Therapeutic approaches vary widely, and therapists tend to gravitate towards those that align with their worldview, personality, and communication style.  Some therapeutic interventions are more structured while others are more free-flowing.  Exploring these approaches can be enlightening, helping you understand why a therapist employs a particular method.

Different therapeutic approaches also cater to different needs.  If you find that a particular approach isn’t resonating with you, consider alternative methods that might better suit your preferences.  It’s not about finding a universally “best” approach, but discovering the one that best aligns with your individuality.


Communication Style

Beyond therapeutic techniques, a therapist’s communication style plays a pivotal role in the therapeutic relationship.  Therapists are not robots – each brings their personality into the room.  Some may adopt a more direct communication style, while others opt for a more supportive approach.

Recognizing your preferred communication style and ensuring it aligns with your therapist’s approach is crucial for fostering effective communication.  A therapist’s ability to convey empathy and understanding through their communication style can significantly impact the therapeutic alliance.


Cultural Competence

Acknowledging and respecting the diversity of individuals is a cornerstone of effective therapy.  Cultural competence goes beyond simple awareness; it involves a genuine understanding of how cultural backgrounds shape perspectives, values, and experiences.

For therapy to be truly effective, finding a therapist who respects and understands your cultural background is essential.  This awareness contributes to a safe and inclusive therapeutic environment where you can explore your concerns without fear of judgment or misunderstanding.


Trust and Rapport

The therapeutic relationship is the cornerstone of effective therapy.  Research even supports that the therapeutic relationship is the single most important predictor for success in therapy.  Regardless of a therapist’s knowledge, skill, and experience, trust is the glue that holds the therapeutic alliance together.  If you don’t feel a sense of trust or rapport with your therapist, the effectiveness of the therapy may be compromised.

Take the time to reflect on your comfort level with your therapist.  Consider whether there’s a genuine connection and a feeling of safety.  If trust is lacking, open communication about these feelings is vital to address the root of the issue and potentially find a resolution.


Flexibility and Adaptability

Therapy is a dynamic process, and a one-size-fits-all approach seldom yields optimal results.  Most therapists possess the ability to adapt their approach based on the unique needs of each client and the evolving nature of therapy.

However, it is crucial to recognize when a therapist’s adaptability may fall short.  If you find that your therapist is resistant to adjusting their approach when needed or lacks the specific training to meet your needs, it may signal a potential mismatch.  The therapeutic process thrives on flexibility, allowing for a customized experience tailored to your specific journey.



Practical considerations, such as a therapist’s availability and the accessibility of their practice, can impact the frequency and mode of your sessions.  Understanding your own needs and expectations is essential when evaluating a therapist’s availability.

Not all therapists can accommodate the same frequency of session, time of day or day of the week to meet for sessions, and preferences for virtual or in-person appointments vary. Be clear about your expectations and assess whether a potential therapist can align with these practical considerations to ensure a harmonious therapeutic process.


Credentials and Licensing

Checking a therapist’s credentials and licensing is a fundamental step in ensuring competence and ethical practice.  This goes beyond the surface level of degrees and certifications; it involves verifying that the therapist adheres to professional standards and regulations.

A licensed therapist has undergone rigorous training and adhered to a code of ethics.  This assurance of professional competence provides a foundation for trust and confidence in the therapeutic process.


Experience and Age

While experience is often valued in therapy, it is essential to recognize that age and experience are not synonymous.  Therapists may enter the profession at various points in their lives, and impactful therapy is not solely determined by the number of years in practice.

Personal preferences regarding age and experience vary among individuals.  Some may prefer a therapist with extensive experience, while others appreciate the fresh perspectives and contemporary knowledge that newer therapists may bring.  The key is to identify what aligns with your preferences and therapeutic goals.


Cost and Insurance

Acknowledging the financial aspect of therapy is a practical consideration.  Finding a therapist whose fees and payment options align with your budget is crucial for maintaining consistent and sustainable therapy.

Understanding that not all therapists accept every insurance plan is essential.  There may be valid reasons for this that are unrelated to the therapist’s competence or commitment.  Open communication about fees, insurance coverage, and potential alternative payment options can contribute to a transparent and mutually beneficial therapeutic relationship.



Finding the right therapist may take time.  What makes a therapist great for one person, may make them a poor match for another person.  If you are concerned that you and your therapist are not well matched, consider taking these steps:

  • Talk to Your Therapist

Initiate a conversation with your therapist about your concerns.  A therapist may not know you are unsatisfied with your experience unless you tell them.  Open communication can lead to better understanding of each other’s perspectives and pave way for adjustments in the therapeutic process.

  • Review Expectations

Take the time to revisit your expectations for therapy.  Mismatches often arise from differing expectations.  Thoughtful discussion can help realign goals and expectations, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

  • Explore Therapeutic Styles

Discuss the possibility of changing therapeutic approaches.  If the current approach isn’t resonating, a different one might.  Your therapist may be able to adapt their style or introduce new interventions that better suit your needs and preferences.

  • Reassess Goals and Progress

Encourage a discussion about your therapy goals and progress.  Occasionally, refining or redefining a goal can provide a clearer path forward, ensuring that therapy remains focused on your evolving needs.

  • Explore Other Barriers

Check in to see if there are other factors that may be inhibiting progress.  Sometimes progress or lack of progress is influenced by factors such as frequency, consistency, or external stressors that exacerbate presenting concerns.

  • Evaluate Personal Comfort

Balancing your gut instincts and rational assessment of your comfort level is crucial.  If you consistently feel unsafe or uneasy, it is essential to explore these feelings with your therapist to determine whether they are unique to the therapeutic relationship or extend to other areas of your life.

  • Ask for Referrals

If, despite efforts to resolve the mismatch, you find that the therapeutic relationship may not be the best fit, don’t hesitate to ask your therapist for referrals.  They can recommend another professional better suited to your unique needs and goals.


As we’ve explored the multitude of factors that contribute to a successful therapeutic match, it is essential to remember that this journey is not just about finding the right therapist – it’s about finding the right path for you.  The steps outlined are not static guidelines, but dynamic considerations that evolve as you progress in your therapeutic journey.  They are tools to empower you to make informed decisions about your therapeutic needs.


In my own practice, I often emphasize to clients that therapy is not about me; it’s about ensuring you receive the help you need.  Whether that helps comes directly from me or is facilitated through connecting you with a more fitting therapist, your well-being remains the ultimate priority.


So, if the current therapeutic relationship feels like the right fit, that’s wonderful!  I’m committed to working diligently as I draw on my training and expertise to support you on your path to healing.  On the other hand, if it turns out that there’s another therapist better suited to guide you through this journey, I am equally dedicated to making that connection happen.


Remember, the right therapist is out there for everyone, and the process of finding them might require a bit more exploration.  It’s okay to reassess, realign, and redefine your therapeutic needs.  Don’t be discouraged by detours – view them as opportunities to discover the path that resonates most profoundly with your unique self.