Finding the right therapist for you in online therapy is arguably the most important part of receiving effective care. Therapy is intended to help you reach mental wellness and achieve your personal goals, but working with the wrong therapist can hinder your progress and lead to frustration.
With your health in mind, we’ve outlined how to find an online therapist who is a good fit for you and can help you achieve your treatment goals.
The Therapeutic Alliance
In the science of counseling and psychology, the single most important factor in helping people to overcome their challenges is known as the “therapeutic alliance.”
The therapeutic alliance is the perception that you and your therapist are working together to make progress. Therapy is a collaborative effort; you and your therapist work together to reach goals.
If you feel like you’re putting in all of the effort or that your therapist is simply lecturing to you instead of working with you, then the therapeutic alliance has failed.
When first meeting your therapist, consider whether they make you feel as though therapy is a team effort. If they don’t instill a feeling of collaboration and supportiveness, they may not be the right fit for helping you to reach your therapeutic goals.
Culturally Competent Care
Culture is important to how you define yourself, and it can play a substantial role in therapy sessions. Your culture is about more than just your ethnic background – it’s about where you grew up, the knowledge that shaped you, how you were raised, your personal identity, and what defines your worldview.
Culturally competent care comes from a therapist who can either identify with your story or show sufficient understanding and empathy to your unique situation.
Online therapy makes it easier to find culturally competent care than ever before. When you find an online therapist, you have the ability to:
Select from a wide range of providers located around the world
Look for therapists who share your worldview or identity
Find people who have experience helping with your particular issue
Easily switch providers if you think your therapist isn’t a good fit
In comparison, seeking in-person therapy often limits you to providers within a certain distance from your home. The convenience and versatility of online therapy make it an excellent choice for people who haven’t found the right therapist in their hometown.
Determining Whether Your Therapist Is a Good Fit
There are several elements for determining whether your therapist is a good fit. Trust, expertise, rapport, and understanding are the core components to look out for when seeking a new therapist.
Trust is arguably the most important element in choosing a new therapist. When meeting a new provider for the first time, ask yourself if you can trust this person with your most personal and sensitive information. Do they make you feel safe and secure? Or does their personality make you nervous and scared to open up?
If you don’t feel that you can trust your therapist after a few sessions, they may not be a good fit.
Online therapists come with a wide range of expertise and specialties. If you’re looking for help with substance use, for example, you may want to look for a provider who has experience with clients with substance use disorders. They may be better equipped to help your unique situation than somebody who focuses on relationship health.
When meeting with a new provider, clearly outline the goals you have for treatment and ask whether the therapist has experience helping with those specific problems. If they don’t, they can still be a valuable resource by pointing you toward colleagues who may be a better fit.
Rapport refers to how easy your therapist is to get along with. A good therapist should be easy to talk to, allowing you to openly discuss what’s happening in your life without fear or insecurity.
While therapists are generally trained to be outstanding communicators, each has a unique personality that may make it easier or more difficult to get along with them.
When you’re sharing your problems, do you feel like your therapist understands where you’re coming from? Or do you feel like you have such different experiences that no amount of explanation can bridge the gap?
Understanding between you and your therapist could mean that you share a similar life experience or a compatible culture. If you don’t think you’ll ever be able to have your therapist understand your situation, perhaps it’s time to find a new therapist.
The Difference Between Psychologists and Counselors
Another common question in the search for a therapist is whether you need to find a psychologist or if a counselor is the better choice. Both are therapeutic professionals who can provide therapy and help with a range of different problems, but there are a few distinctions that can help you make the right choice.
A psychologist holds a doctoral degree in psychology or a related field. They often have many more years of clinical training than a counselor, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re more experienced or better able to help you.
What a psychologist can do that makes them unique is assess and diagnose specific mental health disorders, behavioral disorders, or personality disorders. Receiving a diagnosis for these illnesses can help you target your therapy and treatment in specific ways that ensure you’ll see results.
If you think that a mental illness plays a role in why you’re seeking therapy, you may need to find a psychologist for a diagnosis.
Counselors and Social Workers
In contrast, a counselor usually holds a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or social work. Their training is typically less academic and focuses more on helping people in real clinical situations with practical tools and strategies.
While a counselor can’t diagnose mental illnesses, they often know when to refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist for assistance.
Whether your therapist is a psychologist, counselor, or social worker, they have been trained in how best to help you reach your mental health and personal goals.
Rather than their specific training, finding the right therapist for you should focus on the elements of trust, understanding, and supportiveness. With these core elements needed to build a therapeutic alliance, you’re well on your way to productive therapy sessions that achieve real results.