How to Choose a Therapist

Guest Blog by Alannah McIntee

I bet you’re wondering how am I an authority on choosing a therapist? Good point! I’m absolutely not, lol, other than I’m completely a fan of therapy and have been to counselling many times over my life. The real authority is my client, Alannah McIntee, MCP, RCC, CCC.

We met a couple of years ago when she approached me to do some Personal Branding images for her practice as a Counsellor. And, as May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought it would be great to have her share with us how to go about selecting a good therapist, one that’s a good fit for you. And please don’t take offense. I’m not suggesting you need to see a Counsellor, but ya never know if at some point you just might, and it’s good to have this info in your back pocket. So, let’s get to it!

Woman with red hair sitting on a black chair wearing a blue and white floral dress

Introducing Alannah!

You did it! You’ve made the courageous decision to pursue therapy! Now the next step is to choose a therapist. Perhaps you’ve gotten a recommendation from a friend or scrolled through a directory online. You have all these options, but how can you be sure you’re picking the right one? And you may be wondering what do all of those letters behind their names mean? And does it matter that this therapist is trained in cognitive behavioural therapy, but this one is trauma-informed? With all the options out there, choosing a therapist can feel overwhelming. 

Here are some of the things to consider when choosing a therapist:

1. Your Therapist as a Human Being 

One of the most significant components of therapeutic success is the relationship between the counsellor and the client. This relationship is unique as we share details about ourselves that we may have never shared before. Therefore, we need to feel comfortable with our therapist. Consider what you need from your therapist to feel comfortable. Here are some things to consider:

Age: Would you prefer an older therapist, someone the same age as you, or younger? 

Gender expression: Do you prefer working with a male, female, or someone who is non-binary? 

Sexual orientation: If you identify as LGBTQ2S+, would you prefer a therapist who is also a part of that community?

Religion: Would you like your therapist to provide their services through a specific religious or spiritual lens? 

Culture: Would you prefer that your therapist shares a similar cultural background as you?

Language: Would you like a therapist who can provide services in your preferred language?

Therapist sitting on the floor working with a child

2. Areas of Practice 

If you’re interested in working on a specific issue, check that your therapist is competent in that area. Therapists will have their areas of practice and specialities on their website or profile. If you’re not sure if your potential therapist specializes in your issue, send them an email or give them a call! A majority of therapists offer free phone consultations to answer any questions you may have. If they do not have experience with what you’re looking for, ask for a recommendation for a therapist specializing in your issue.

3. Counselling Modalities

Therapists will have particular theories and approaches that they use in their practice. Most therapists are integrative and will combine multiple different types of therapeutic techniques and interventions. If there is a specific type of therapy that you have heard of that you would like to pursue, you can search for a therapist who uses this approach. 

Woman with red hair blowing bubbles

4. Credentials

Therapy is not a regulated profession in British Columbia. This means that anyone can advertise themselves as a therapist even if they are not adequately trained, which can be harmful for several reasons. When looking for a therapist, you want to ensure that you choose someone registered with a regulatory body. A regulatory body sets your therapist’s standards of practice, ethics, and provides disciplinary action if you ever have a complaint or concern. A standard regulatory body in BC is the British Columbian Association of Clinical Counsellors.

You will know if your counsellor is registered because they will have the designation of RCC (Registered Clinical Counsellor) behind their name. Another common one is the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association which provides counsellors with the designation CCC (Canadian Certified Counsellor). There are other designations in British Columbia as well. If you want to ensure that your therapist is registered, they will have their license number on their website or you can ask for it via phone or email. You can search that number on their regulatory body’s website. 

Therapist sitting on floor holding out hands to a child holding some therapy blocks

5. Questions to Ask a Therapist

You have every right to ask a potential therapist questions about their experience, training, and what to expect from their services. You are interviewing them to ensure that they are the right fit for you. Here are some questions to consider asking during a phone consultation or first appointment: 

“What’s your experience with this issue?”

“Have you seen clients with similar issues to me before?” 

“What type of approach do you use in your practice?” 

“I’m not familiar with that type of therapy. Can you please elaborate on it?”

“How will you know we’re a good fit? What happens if this isn’t a good fit?”

“How can you tell if I’m making progress?” 

“Can you recommend any therapists that do specialize in this area?”

“Do you offer a sliding scale or reduced fees? Do you know of any therapists that do?”

“How often do you recommend I come to therapy?” 

A good therapist will be happy and open to answering any questions or concerns you have before starting treatment. We understand that it takes a lot of courage to reach out to someone to discuss difficult topics and want to support you in any way that we can.

Red headed woman holding a warm mug of coffee

6. Final Tips

It is also totally okay to shop around and meet a few different therapists before deciding on the one you want to work with- you are allowed to be picky! It is essential to ensure that you find someone that you feel safe and comfortable working with.

Keep in mind too that these points are also appropriate for other professionals you may consider working with, such as doctors, child-care providers, or even photographers.

Woman with red hair holding onto and playing with mustache costume pieces

When choosing a photographer for my own branding session, I had no idea what I was looking for. I knew that it was vital for me to work with a person I felt comfortable with, experienced, and willing to walk me through the process. I was fortunate enough to stumble upon Michele, who was more than happy to support me throughout my branding experience from beginning to end. She took the time to get to know me, listen to what I was looking for, and was such a joy to work with!

Awe, thank you Alannah! I loved working with you as well and my son sure did too! Talk about a fun office! 

Thanks also for sharing all of this excellent info and I totally concur about getting the right fit and knowing who you’d feel comfortable talking to. And thank you for explaining all of the letter credentials. I had no clue but knew they were important.

Alannah would be happy to answer any questions you may have and you can reach out to her via her Instagram @alannahthecounsellor or email: [email protected]

As Alannah did, please reach out to me with any questions you have about Personal Branding for Small Business photos. I offer complimentary consultations and would love to chat!

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Michele Mateus is an award winning Vancouver Boudoir and Women’s Portrait Photographer. Serving Coquitlam, Vancouver, Fraser Valley, Langley, Abbotsford, Squamish, Burnaby, Surrey, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, New Westminster and the Great Vancouver area.

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