Finding the right therapist can involve almost as much energy and time as finding the right spouse. Instead of meeting for coffee, or appetizers and drinks, you’re spilling your guts inside a bunch of psychotherapists’ offices, trying to gauge whether all that notebook scribbling is going to translate into help or not. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, the important work of therapy can be delayed by months or years. Luckily, there are therapists like Ryan Howes, PhD, who are our tour guides inside the counseling walls. He’s like our Match.com concierge, equipping us with the right questions to ask so that we don’t spend years on the couch sitting across from the wrong notebook scribbler.
Dr. Howes (pictured above) is a board-certified psychologist in Pasadena, California, where he’s in private practice and is a clinical professor of psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He writes the blog In Therapy for Psychology Today, as well as an interview column for Psychotherapy Networker magazine. In 2012, Howes and some of his students formed National Psychotherapy Day (September 25th), a day to demystify therapy and reduce the stigma surrounding both it and mental health issues. As part of that campaign last year, he held a storytelling event called Moments of Meaning, in which therapists told true (but non-identifying) stories of powerful moments from their own work.
“Therapists are eager to tell you about things that aren’t directly related to your question of whether or not they can help you solve your problem,” explains Howes. “They will tell you where they went to school, where they were trained, what modalities they learned, what they researched, and so forth.” Instead of asking for their resume, he recommends you ask these six questions, and explains why.