We all know the amount of time regular shopping takes, especially when it comes to groceries, the next planned outfit, a new car, and so on. Some people like planned and structured to-do lists with criteria to meet when they shop and some do it on a whim. 

Therapist shopping works a little differently. And here’s why we prefer one that makes it a point to shop for therapists when they finally feel like talking to a professional would make their life easier. 

Here’s how this first therapy session could go. We finally sat and thought about our problems, we imagined a place where we’re comfortable to open up to someone about them (imagine an office that isn’t as cold and sterile as the films stereotype therapist offices to be) and we find some therapist references from the internet and friends or even family members.

We schedule a prior appointment with them, go into the first session with shaky nerves, and walk out feeling much better than when we first walked in. This is the most idealistic scenario for our first therapy session and the one we want to achieve at the end of the day.

One of the ways one may achieve this first step is by going therapist shopping. Prior research on the references given to you on the professionals you want to approach, can make you feel more comfortable opening up.

So, how does one therapist-shop? 

We’re aware nobody is selling therapist appointments at fairs where there is some interaction between the service provider and purchaser. And the recent mobile apps and medical portals created have made it easier to browse through therapist references through updated “profiles.” Wouldn’t it be easier to interact with them to see for yourself how they interact with their new clients? The first step to therapist shopping is: 

1. Call/email your new therapist to ask them about their patient intake and whether they’re available for new clients. 

If they agree, try to ask them whether they would be amicable for a scheduled appointment on figuring out whether you’d be a good fit for each other. If they aren’t open to this idea, don’t make the appointment since they’re not worth the time. Therapists are meant to make their patients comfortable and this is the bare minimum of making a client feel comfortable. 

2. Approach the appointment with questions

This doesn’t mean that we’re required to be armed with 1500 possibly related doubts right before you walk into our first appointment. But having a clear understanding of what we possibly wish to achieve by attending therapy and a summary of the underlying issues we’re facing, is always a good idea. This will help both the therapist and the client understand the situation better.

3. Gently remind them that this is an interview-meeting 

It’s important for us to reiterate our reasons for being in therapy. So consider this our first step to that process and give an introduction to the therapist. Let them know that this is an appointment just to see if the two of us are a good fit or not. If the reaction from their end causes any discomfort, cut the meeting short and don’t bother with making a proper appointment. 

4. Give them the summary 

Make sure to talk about why we’re here at a therapist for the first time. Talk about the underlying issues to them and watch their reaction. Then ask them about what therapeutic methods they’re comfortable using and their experience in the field of mental health. And how they think they can help us approach these particular issues that we’re facing.

The answers to these questions could very well make or break the possibility of a next appointment. 

5. Listen to your instincts 

Our instincts are an important factor to consider when it comes to feeling comfortable about trusting people with personal issues. Make sure to listen to your gut when talking to this therapist. As soon as the allotted time is up, we’ll grapple with the question of whether spending time and money with this person will be worthwhile or not.

If the answers to whether we’ve achieved comfort, enough knowledge, and satisfaction to schedule another appointment are nothing but green lights, schedule a proper regular appointment with them. If you still aren’t sure, just tell them the decision’s up for further consideration and leave. And if it wasn’t the most comfortable experience, thank them for their time, don’t feel guilty for doing what’s right for yourself, and walk out. 

6. Dealing with current therapists

This may not be your first shot at therapy and you could currently be stuck with your old therapist despite the lack of progress or help from their end. 

This might be due to some amount of confounded loyalty, or due to being unaware of the signs of a terrible therapist bond, or due to not knowing how to let go of them. Here’s our professional advice. BetterHelp.com’s article on how to break up with your old therapist before you go shopping for new ones. We’ve given some advice in the attached article on how to proceed with the break up if you require any help to do so.

7. Out with the old and in with the new

As the saying goes, leave the past behind and start fresh. Now that we’ve left the old therapists behind be sure that you leave your past experiences behind as well. Not the ones that showed us the red herrings and the errors made by the previous therapists, but the ones that wouldn’t help with your future experiences with therapy/

If you’ve talked to your future interviewed therapists, made a list of whom you want to approach again and who we want to cross off the list, we also need you to be sure you will promise yourself a fresh start for therapy all in all. 

We know this isn’t an easy undertaking to accomplish. But we are sure you will put your best foot forward while approaching the future and taking care of yourself. 

Getting rid of your old therapists is step 1 to this process. Shopping for therapists is another important step to this plan. And not owing anyone anything until you find what you’re looking for is the overall process to this.

We understand that this could be emotionally draining and at times, physically as well. But your efforts will pay off and we’re sure of it. Don’t forget to give yourself due credit from time to time and you should do just fine by the end of the day.