If you are hurting inside, or if life just doesnt seem to be working... you dont have to just sit there and suffer.

You do have a choice: you can choose to get help.

How to select a therapist who will help and not hurt. a project of Metanoia Communications

How can I find a good counselor or psychotherapist?

How do I know if my counselor is competent?

What is supposed to happen in therapy?

Can a therapist be incompetent without me realizing it?

Is a psychologist the best therapist? Does a license make a difference?

If you have asked yourself any of these questions, this article is for you. It is a consumers guide for anyone who is considering professional counseling and wants to know how to go about it. I hope to show you how to choose a professional counselor who is likely to be able to help you, and how to avoid those who are not.

Why is this article different? Because I am not working for a therapist; I am working for you. I am not biased toward any particular profession and no one is paying me to write this article. I have no agenda other than your well-being.

You see, Find-A-Therapist articles are usually marketing tools. They are often written by professional associations, who want you to find a member of their association; or by therapists who are advertising their services. Both are biased. Some are written by consumers in a well-meaning but ultimately fruitless attempt to decipher the confusing array of academic degrees, licenses and certifications of therapists. (Why fruitless? Keep reading.)

But since a degree, and even a license, may not guarantee the effectiveness of a counselor, this article will show you how to evaluate the true competence and effectiveness of a therapist or counselor based on very simple evidence YOU can gather with your own eyes and ears.

No one, including me, has a monopoly on good advice, and I encourage you to consider several opinions in addition to mine (I will refer you to some others at the end of this article); but I hope you will find this information helpful.

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Table of Contents


  1. Why I wrote this article
  2. How to tell if a therapist is competent, or not
  3. What psychotherapy isand why you need to know
  4. The secret that you already know
  5. How a good therapist makes you feel safe
  6. The perfect therapist
  7. Privacy: the essential ingredient
  8. Non-judgmental acceptance: you deserve it
  9. How to choose a therapist to call
  10. How you find out about the therapist
  11. Therapist credentials: the truth revealed
  12. First contact. Watch out for these red flags!
  13. Your first session: what should happen
  14. Safety is in the details
  15. Now what?

Copyright 1991,1996, 1999 Martha Ainsworth. All rights reserved. Please refer to reprint information before reprinting or distributing all or any part of this text.
Executive Summary: condensed full article on one page

A project of Metanoia Communications

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