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How to Find the Right Therapist When You Feel Burned Out — Advice from a Clinical Psychologist

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February 26, 2021

3 Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Therapist

  • Do you want a male or female therapist?
  • Do you think psychodynamic therapy or behavioral therapy would work best for you?
  • Do you feel comfortable talking to this person?
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Not surprisingly, doctors tend to be rather picky when choosing professionals to take care of their own health. And that’s true of both physical and emotional health needs. “Doctors happen to be really selective about finding therapists,” says Dr. Marianna Strongin, a licensed clinical psychologist and founder of Strong in Therapy, her Manhattan-based private practice. “I think it’s one of the reasons that they don’t get into therapy earlier.”

But Dr. Strongin says it’s not just professional selectiveness that delays and hampers the start of therapy, but a lack of knowledge about the field and the various options that are available. The process of choosing a therapist who’s a good match can be simplified. In fact, she says physicians—or anyone else—can figure out what they’re looking for in a therapist with three simple questions.

“The first is male or female,” she says. Once you’re decided which gender you’re more comfortable working with, you’ve divided the field of prospective therapists in half.

Another question is what kind of therapy you think would be the best fit for you. This is the most complicated of the three questions. “I think this is where people get a little hung up, because they don’t know about all the kinds of therapy that are available,” says Dr. Strongin. But she says the choices can be boiled down. “You either want a therapist who’s kind of exploratory, and we call that psychodynamic therapy. Or you want somebody who uses interventions right away—something like cognitive behavioral therapy, which looks at your behavior, and the way you think, and how you cope through your days.”

Finally there’s another simple question: Do you feel comfortable with that person? “You can get a sense of that right at the first phone call,” says Dr. Strongin.

Using these questions to sift through available therapist and therapy options can help speed the process of choosing a therapist and match you with someone who will be a good fit for your therapy needs, minimizing the delay doctors often face in getting help to deal with their own emotional issues and feelings of burnout.