Some people recommend that you “interview” several therapists or psychiatrists before settling on the person who fits best. What are the best ways to go about interviewing a health care professional?

The first thing I would do is go on referrals from other people who’ve had successful therapy. The second thing I would do is look at the therapists’ credentials: whether or not they are licensed, where they went to school, that sort of thing. The third thing would be to find out the type of therapy they do. Are they trained to do short-term therapy that focuses on thoughts and behaviors that are troubling a person in the present, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, or is their orientation toward long-term therapy focused on childhood and events in the past? Another important factor is the financial aspect. 

One possible source of a good referral is your primary care physician. Lastly, I think your gut feeling is very important. How do you feel when you go into the office? Does it feel safe? Is the therapist focused on you or is he or she interrupting the session to take calls? It’s really important to feel that you would be able to develop trust with your therapist.  

With the new therapist, you should go for more than one visit, probably at least two or three in a row. This will help you make a more informed decision about whether the therapist is the right one. On the first visit, you might be so anxious that it will be hard to tell if you are going to feel comfortable.  

Answered by: Gail Tager, she is a marriage and family therapist from Sierra Madre, California, with two decades of experience. Here, she answers five of the most common questions regarding mental health, ranging from how to find the best therapist to how to figure out when and whom to tell others about your struggles.