Ever wonder about how to choose a therapist? Today I would like to share my thoughts on this important question.

I believe a client can feel more understood when the therapist has clinical experience with the situation the client is bringing to therapy. And, if the therapist has the same personal experience, even better. This implies that the client knows what concern is bringing them into a therapist's office. But if the client doesn't know, an intuitive therapist can quickly assess and understand what is causing the pain in the client's life.

Carl Jung, the great Swiss psychiatrist and intuitive thinker, once remarked that a therapist cannot take his or her clients further emotionally than they themselves have gone. I believe that. And yet, while I am not suggesting that every therapist needs to experience every circumstance a client has undergone, I do believe there can be a deeper understanding of a client's pain or stress levels when a therapist has experienced a similar trial. For example, a divorced therapist would be able to empathize more accurately about the layers of pain going through a divorce. A recovering therapist would be more capable of role modeling how to stay clean and sober. A therapist who has lost a child would be able to empathize and validate the depth of grieving parents must manage to survive.

Good therapists really do help their clients survive terrible times. I also think the best therapists are "Wounded Healers." As long as they have worked on their own places of sorrow, betrayal, fear and loss these therapists are sensitive to your pain. It is also not disrespectful to ask your potential therapist if he or she has engaged in their own personal therapy. Ask about their experience with your particular situation, too, and their fee schedule as well. I once received an inquiry call from someone who asked me if I were afraid of the people who came in for therapy. I responded I was afraid only of those who said they "didn't need it." Everyone can use some help, insight and time for reflection and introspection - never mind support - once in a while.

Also, when you choose a therapist, be aware that ineffective people are found in every profession and trade and the psychology field is no exception. A therapist once told my poor husband and me that we needed to get over our daughter Katie's death. That's where I learned the exit door must be used swiftly - which we did - if you find yourself in an office with someone cold or apathetic. Remember, you are the person paying for the counseling service so if it doesn't feel right, it isn't right.

Because psychotherapy is important and sacred work, be mindful and wise when you choose your therapist. Pick someone who is intelligent, kind, confident and qualified. Make sure you genuinely like the therapist you meet and feel a nice rapport with them. Focus less on how many degrees he or she has than on someone whom you researched: listen to your gut.

A final suggestion is to get a referral from someone you respect for a therapist who has a solid reputation for being ethical, honest, and real. You know, real as the sick little boy's bunny in the story of The Velveteen Rabbit. The bunny that was loved "so hard" that his whiskers were loved off and the pink lining to his ears turned gray. That's the kind of therapist you want sitting across from you. That's the kind of therapist you want listening empathically as you come to understand your heart, your soul, your secret dreams and your pain. Yes, that's the kind of therapist you ultimately want helping you not only to make the most of your 55 minute hour but to help you Make Every Day Matter as well.

Author's Bio: 

Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S., CGP, is a grief counselor for 30 years with a private practice in Paoli, PA available in person or by phone consultation. Author of When Every Day Matters: A Mother's Memoir on Love, Loss and Life - Sarah Ban Breathnach publisher, Simple Abundance Press.

“In her moving book on what matters most in life, Mary Jane Hurley Brant confronts the unthinkable with courage, compassion and candor. This book is an exquisite evocation of life after loss.” Sarah Ban Breathnach author of Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy and Something More

“This is a book that will break your heart and put it back together again. This is the story of a daughter who wouldn’t give up and a mother who never lost faith. The reader can’t help but be inspired by the indomitable human spirit that resides within Mary Jane Brant.”
Larry Kirshbaum - Founder LJK Literary Management