Odile McKenzie, LCSW
What To Look For In A Therapist
Therapy requires vulnerability and the readiness to change. Deciding to seek a therapist can be very scary, affecting your judgment about what you are looking for. If we are not ready to make changes, we may have a million reasons why the therapist is not good or why we can’t find a “good therapist”. Much like dating, we will never know with 100% certainty whether someone is the right fit for us until we start the relationship. That said, you can make sure your values match up.
Research shows that the choice of treatment modality plays a less important role in the outcome than the therapeutic alliance. As a consequence, it is best to find someone whom you feel safe with and trust enough to be vulnerable. Needless to say, you want someone who is credentialed to provide services in your state, but it is crucial to combine expertise with a therapeutic modality that will create a warm and nurturing space where you feel comfortable sharing. You can assess whether the therapist can sit with your vulnerability by asking whether they have gone to therapy and have done their own work. If a therapist lacks self-awareness and does not have access to their own feelings, they will avoid yours as well in the session.
I also recommend looking for a therapist who has expertise working with clients with your specific issue. All therapists have a niche; in my experience, therapists do their best work when clients fall within their niche.
If your racial or other identities are important to you, look for a therapist who shares that identity. There are many directories such as Therapy For Black Girls, The Asian Mental Health Collective, or Inclusive Therapist who can help you with that.
Find a therapist whom you can afford. The price of your session is not always an indication of how ‘good’ the therapist is. Look for a therapist who is in your insurance network and fits your budget. You may also be able to be reimbursed by your insurance company if you have out-of-network benefits. Financial considerations are important because you will not be able to meet with a therapist whom you cannot afford over a long stretch. Most therapists offer a sliding scale; ask about that during your consultation. Many therapists have slots for clients who cannot afford their full rate and often partner with Openpathcollective.org. Open Path allows clients to access individual therapy for no more than $60. Some practices have interns who are supervised and can provide therapy at a lower rate. You can also search for organizations such as Loveland Foundation which provides scholarships to Black-identifying women who cannot afford services.
If you get past the consultation and begin services, remind yourself that you have entered a relationship and that you may experience hurt as in any other relationship. Use the therapeutic space to talk about what's coming up for you and to practice repairing relationships in a safe way. A ‘good’ therapist will want to repair the ruptures in your relationship, rather than being ghosted.
A therapeutic relationship will mirror your other relationships, so why not practice your skills in a safe and supportive space?
Check out some recommendations from other mental health professionals, including me, here.