What Kind of Therapist do I Need?

Natalie Buchwald, LMHCTherapy

By Natalie Buchwald, LMHC | Last Updated: May 22nd, 2023
Reviewed by Steven Buchwald

If you’ve decided to go to therapy, you’ve already passed one of the highest hurdles between you and better mental health. But now you’re facing another big question: What kind of therapist is right for me?

There are several different types of therapy. Trying to read up on all of them online can be overwhelming. Before you google, spend a little time thinking about what you want from this experience. Your therapy goals can guide you through the process of finding the right therapist.

Start By Identifying Your Needs

Before you start looking for a specific type of practitioner, ask yourself these fundamental questions:

  • What do I want to get out of therapy?
  • What drains me of energy?
  • What situations do I tend to struggle with?
  • What past traumas do I know I need help healing from?

These are big questions, and your answers might be tentative. That’s okay. Even provisional ideas are helpful at this stage since they can guide you toward a therapist who can meet you where you are now.

Over time, as you get to know yourself better in therapy, you’ll likely arrive at a clearer picture for all four questions.

Discover Your Therapy Options

One way to choose a therapist is by looking at the type of issues they specialize in. If you are struggling with anxiety, someone that has the expertise and experience is crucial.

Another way of going about choosing a therapist is by looking at the type of therapy that most resonate with you right now. Some types of therapy are very solution-oriented and actions based (like CBT) while others (like DBT) are more open-ended following the track of the emotions (like psychodynamic).

A therapist could offer several types of therapy, including:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a goal-oriented, action based type of therapy that emphasizes the link between thoughts and actions. Through CBT, people learn new practical ways to react and behave in response to the stress of everyday life.
  • Psychodynamic Therapy, a therapy that links past and present life events to your current-day relationships, feelings, and choices. This therapy involves talking through experiences, examining thought patterns, and uncovering how the mind works.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), an offshoot of CBT that helps people handle stress, regulate their emotions, and live mindfully. Through DBT, patients can reframe past experiences and glean strategies for dealing with emotional and mood regulation challenges.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EDMR), a therapy very effective to treat trauma and PTSD that helps the brain process challenging experiences and memories so a person can heal effectively.
  • Humanistic, Person Centered or Gestalt Therapy, holistic approaches that focuses on the whole person and their ability to grow, embrace positive behaviors, and self-actualize. Through humanistic therapy, clients are empowered to reach their full potential.

Which Type Of Therapy Is Right For Me?

If your past feels like a burden that prevents you from moving forward in your life, you might benefit from psychodynamic therapy. You can expect to take a hard look at traumatic moments and learn how to reframe them so they exert less power over you now.

CBT (which is the most solution-oriented approach) is most helpful if you’re looking to make changes in the way you handle stress or other triggers. Your sessions will probably include examining the situations that trigger you and learning different ways of responding to them. CBT is fairly practical and often incorporate “homework” to practice your new tools outside of sessions.

If you feel like the emotions that take over when you’re stressed or anxious are getting in the way of your ability to get through your days productively, or interfering with your relationships, you might want to try DBT. DBT is particularly useful at exploring strong emotions until you are at peace with them.

If you suffer from PTSD or trauma, EMDR might be particularly useful. This method is often used in conjunction with other types of therapy. Typically, you would do 6-12 sessions specifically on the traumatic event using EMDR and would then revert to the other types of therapy that your therapist uses.

Humanistic therapy is a great choice if you’re feeling healthy and centered but know you’re also ready to grow. Your therapist will help you maximize your psychological potential and well-being.

Don’t worry if you don’t know which kind of therapy is right for you. Reach out and ask! A good therapy practice will assess your goals and help you find the right approach.

Therapists often use more than one therapeutic style. Your therapist might use a mix of say DBT, CBT and person-centered therapy. A good therapist will know which kind of therapy is right for you.

During the course of therapy, you can ask your therapist which type of therapy is being used. This will help you better identify which exercise or framework resonates with you most.

Finally: Know When It Feels Right

In the end, what’s most important is trusting your gut. Finding the right therapist is all about the connection with your therapist.

During and after the first few sessions, ask yourself:

  • Do I feel gotten?
  • Do they feel caring, trustworthy and honest?
  • Do I feel like I can be honest with this therapist without feeling judge?
  • Do I feel accepted and safe?

Sometimes it can take a few sessions to see if you and your therapist are going to click.

If you don’t feel a connection by your third or fourth visit, switch to someone else.

Don’t worry – the first therapist won’t be offended. Therapists know better than anyone that their service won’t be effective if you’re not connecting.

Know We’re Here for You

Therapists can help you accomplish your goals and stay on track as you build your best life. At Manhattan Mental Health Counseling, we’re pleased to offer easy, affordable and high quality therapy online. Contact us online or call us at 212-960-8626 to be matched with a therapist.