Often our first line of exploration for dealing with life concerns is the Internet. When you need to gather information or address a problem you first do an Internet search. So when it comes to having a therapy chat it’s only natural that you would turn to the Internet to find the resources and services you need. Sure enough there are an abundance of services and individual therapists offering counselling to potential clients. How do you make sense of this plethora of possibilities, how do you choose your therapy chat in such a way that it isn’t just a chat but has a clear therapeutic benefit for you?
Let’s look at some tips and pointers that you can use to make an educated and informed choice when choosing an online therapist.
First and foremost make sure you have a good enough understanding of what you need from a therapy chat. Have a general sense of what it is you would like to work on in therapy and what your goals would be. What is crucial to remember is that a therapy chat is much more than that. Therapy hinges on the quality of the relationship between the therapist and the client. Ask yourself what is important to you in a therapist. What are the qualities you specifically require for a therapy chat? Is the gender of the therapist important to you? Would you prefer an older or younger therapist? Do you need someone culturally similar to you?
Ensure that you have an understanding of what therapy is about. Think about what has helped you to manage problems and grow in the past.
Spend some time researching different modes of therapy so that you can become an educated consumer that can make an informed choice. Look at your various options in terms of therapeutic approach (e.g. cognitive behavioral, narrative, person-centered) and have a broad sense of what would work for you. Also spend some time considering the mode of delivery of therapy that could work for you – there is a lot of versatility in this regard online and you may feel more comfortable with e-mail for instance versus a face-to-face therapy chat.
Evaluate the professionalism, skills, training and experience of the potential therapist
Remember your relationship is with a particular person as opposed to an impressive e-therapy website. So while the professionalism of the site does reflect something of the therapist you may want to chat with, it is more important to evaluate the substance of your potential e-therapist. What are his/her qualifications and credentials – does the therapist have a formal academic qualification that involved a supervised internship, is he/she licensed , what experience has he/she had? Is she/he bound by a professional code of ethics and can she/he answer questions in a professional and competent manner.
Get a sense of character of the therapist and the fit with you
Take some time to chat to or “interview” your therapist so that you can get a sense of how they work and whether their therapy style and personality work for you. Some non-negotiable features of any therapist include the capacity for empathy and non-judgmental listening. Other features that may be important to you may include wisdom and compassion. There may be features which you particularly need or value such as a good sense of humor and a creative and exploratory therapeutic style.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Remember that you are a customer paying for a service and as such you have the right to fully understand and clarify information that will influence your experience of therapy. So within the boundary of a therapeutic relationship ask the questions you need to make an informed and comfortable decision.
Trust your gut
Trust your capacity to make healthy choices. After having done your homework, ensured the competence of the therapist you are considering, taken a bit of time to speak to and get to know them and asked all the questions you need to it’s useful to ask yourself the question “Does this feel right?” Evaluate the “chemistry” between you and your potential therapist. Did you “click” and how did you feel after your initial chat? Don’t be afraid to talk to a number of therapists to ensure you have the right fit for you.
With these basic guidelines you can start to navigate the vast array of possibilities out there, and find your way to a place where that initial therapy chat can develop into a supportive, transformative and growth oriented therapeutic relationship tailored to your specific needs and expectations.
Dr. Stacey Leibowitz-Levy is a highly experienced psychologist with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology (Cum Laude) and a PhD in the area of stress and its relation to goals and emotion. She works with adults, teens and children within her areas of expertise. Take a look at her LinkedIn profile