Take a look at their credentials
Kite_rin/Shutterstock Scouring the Internet for a therapist is like swiping through a dating app looking for the perfect match; you’ve got to sift through a lot of phonies first before you find the real deal. Fortunately, many therapists have their own websites or LinkedIn profiles where you can skim through their biography and resume to verify their years of experience and make sure their certifications are from an accredited institution. “If there are letters after their last name that I’m not sure what they mean, I would Google them to find out what that is,” says Chloe Carmichael, PhD, a psychologist in New York City. “A lot of the time therapists just want to put a long string of letters after their name because it sounds impressive to people, but when we Google what those letters are they actually mean very little.” As you conduct your research, you’ll start being able to spot the fake “therapists” from the legitimate ones. Other signs of a good health-care professional besides certifications include experience and easy accessibility.
Conduct a phone interview
Alissa-Kumarova/Shutterstock Before you invest all your time and money in going to a therapist’s office, try a phone interview first. For some people, a phone call is a simple way to connect with a prospective therapist before that initial face-to-face interaction. “That phone conversation is important,” says Sari Cooper, therapist and director of the Center for Love and Sex in New York City. “In my practice, we do phone intakes so we can get to know the person and see if we’re the right fit.” Phone calls help you gauge what the therapist is like because you can hear their voice, listen to their tone or speaking pace, and are able to ask introductory questions about their professional background or what they specialize in. It’s a great opportunity to determine if you could envision yourself talking to this person for 45 minutes each week.
Find someone who has experience working with people like you
wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock It’s easier to open up to someone who can relate to you in regards to your age, religious beliefs, or cultural values, or understands how to handle issues from working with similar patients in the past. “For instance, I’ve had some people come into my practice and ask, ‘Have you worked with Jewish couples?’” says Cooper. “It’s important to them that I understand the issues around their culture.” Ask your prospective therapist about their work experiences and if they can’t answer your question directly, that may be a sign that they’re not a good fit. Respect and honesty are two other important qualities you look for in a doctor.