How to Pick the Right Therapist: Top 3 Things to Look For

Hi and welcome to your session. I’m Gilles Brideau and welcome to my thank you challenge or to this video about that top three strategies in picking a therapist or psychotherapist. Now, when I skim the internet for the different resources that people typically look for, are things like qualifications, locations, personality. I think all those things are valuable. But what I’m going to try to transmit today is kind of my top three things to look for when looking for a therapist.

The first thing is really how do they answer the WIIFM question, WIIFM, which is actually a marketing concept which stands for what’s in it for me. From the website, from the telephone conversation, from all the information that you get from this therapist, do they really understand where you’re uniquely coming from. If you’re seeing a therapist for depression, do they have experience in dealing with clients with depression? What’s their protocol like? How many sessions will you see them for? Have you worked with this issue in the past? Similarly with anxiety or depression or substance abuse? That’s really my background, is in really addictions and mental health. People with concurrent disorders. These are some of the important questions is in terms of what’s in it for me, have you addressed these issues before. That’s the number three thing.

The number two thing is how will I know when I’m getting better? Now, it sounds like kind of a trivial thing but I think it’s really important. Now, a tool that I use now in my office probably since 2011 is just a simple clinical tool. I went to a magnificent workshop a few years back and I’m not shy to say it was with Dr. David Burns. He talked about the importance of measuring every single client that comes in. The reason being is really twofold. The first is you get a really quick snapshot of how a client is doing. Now, the brief mood survey is a tool that I use in my clinical practice and I bought the license for it. Really, what it measures is depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, anger, positive feeling towards self and relationship with others.

In looking at this, it really gives me a really quick snapshot of how the person is doing on that day. It’s a great way of measuring as well how the progress through a session goes especially if you do a pre and post-test with that client. Let’s say that the client comes in and their state of mind or their state of depression was at a seven which is on a moderate level. Perhaps by the end of the session, it was reduced to a three or a four. Usually, at the beginning of the very next session, we review their progress in how they’ve done. Also, really key indicators in terms of what helped during the session.

Sometimes in doing that is very humbling experience for the therapist. Meaning, I know for some of my clients I had measured with one patient, I thought, “Man, I think I did a really great job. I think this session kind of rocked,” and found out in her score that actually she was frustrated. She felt she wasn’t going anywhere. Instead of getting angry, I mean, I did my own work about this, but instead of angry, I really asked a better question which is what can I do differently. That’s the second part. I said there’s two parts, one is getting a really quick snapshot and the second is the tool allows me to fail fast. Now, that probably doesn’t sound very good but what I mean by that is we can make a natural assumption that if a client is seeing us with elevated scores on depression or anxiety or sadness, that after a few sessions, those scores should go down.

In other words, if a client comes in on session one and their score is a nine which is at a moderate level, we can make the assumption that after about three or four sessions, those scores should go down. If they don’t go down, it’s an indication of two things. One, the person is going through more situational stress. Or two, whatever I’m doing is not working. Whether it’s the person doesn’t feel comfortable, don’t feel like they’re getting anywhere. The tool allows me to really challenge how the therapeutic alliance is going as we go along. Now, my colleagues in the office here say that I have my clients trained because as soon as they walk in, there’s a clipboard right beside the door. It’s the first thing that they fill out before they enter a session. There’s an expectation to from the client perspective that you’re defining what you want to get out of this.

Which brings us to point number three. I put it as point number three or the reason number one on how to pick a good therapist is what does your gut say. The essence of building rapport, I’ve worked a lot in my work with the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, that the key elements especially in dealing with youth because that’s the population I was dealing with before, that regardless of the therapeutic intervention whether it’s cognitive behavioral or whether it’s DBT, I’m giving a lot of psycho bubble, really, the most essential thing is the building of rapport. Because you cannot force information into a brain. You have to create an environment in which the brain is willing to receive the information. Creating rapport is really essential. It gives the client the idea that, “This person really knows what I’m going through and I could trust them that they could take me somewhere better.”

That’s it. That’s the top three. Again, the last one on building rapport is kind of critical. If you ever come to a crossroad in your life where you’re searching for a therapist, remember the three kind of keys. The first one, what’s in it for me, do they have similar things or similar things’ish, have they dealt with these similar things in the past. Second, how will I know when I’m getting better, do they have some kind of accountability to me and to themselves as to how we’re progressing through session, how long it’s going to take, those kinds of questions. Lastly, what is my guts saying, do I feel comfortable in working with this person.

The therapeutic relationship is a very unique one. I know for myself, I feel blessed and privileged that every time that a person comes through the door and is willing to share information with me on their wellness. I don’t take that ever for granted. I try to create an environment in which we can have an honest exchange so that we can progress towards the outcome that they want. That’s it. Your three quick tips on how to find the right therapist. As usual, thanks so much for joining me today. If you like these videos, I’d like you to hit the like button at the bottom. As usual, welcome your comments, opinions. They all matter to me and as well as the information you like to have in the future. To your health and to your mental wellness. Thanks for coming today.