How To Choose a Good Therapist & Why Most People Get It Wrong The First Time

Picture of Written by Pamela Wagner

Written by Pamela Wagner


General ‘How To’s’ on finding a therapist are usually very generic and one often doesn’t feel smarter after many hours or research. Some of these tips usually include: 

  • Identify your goals and preferences for therapy
  • Research different types of therapists and their qualifications
  • Read reviews and ask for referrals from trusted sources
  • Contact potential therapists and ask questions about their approach, fees, and policies
  • Assess your comfort level and rapport with the therapist
  • Be open-minded and willing to try new strategies or techniques

Sounds like a lot of work, right?

So, let’s simplify this. 

If you’re reading this, you’ve most likely already put some thought into looking for a therapist or you’re already with one but unhappy with the results.

Here are the five main issues when it comes to looking for a therapist, which I’ve seen people report over the years again and again: 

  1. Cognitive Blindness: we don’t know what we don’t know, so it can be really hard to determine what we really need.
  2. If you don’t have a degree or background in Psychology, it might be hard to know which therapy fits which issue. 
  3. Many therapists offer a variety of treatments, but few are really specialized. So, how do you know what the person is really good at when they offer 12 different types of issues and treatments? 
  4. Money doesn’t equal output or quality. If you go for a government-supported option, be aware that the person’s workload is determined by someone else. And, as I’ve found in my own Master Thesis (Wagner, 2022), therapists with more autonomy are often happier and can produce better results for their clients. So, a cheaper therapist may cost you a big sacrifice of quality. You may end up paying more over time than if you worked with an independent pro from the beginning. This is because many people who go to government-supported therapy often take more sessions to heal or solve the issue than those with independent ones. However, note that this is a subjective observation based on discussions with many people all over the world.
  5. Hesitation to work with someone online to get better care. I’ve encountered these hesitations all over the world. Friends in India or Ghana would tell me that they would rather work with someone local than get better care from someone internationally. They’d rather settle for substandard outcome if it means they can see the therapist in person. One can’t blame them – people aren’t rational, especially when it comes to emotional topics. However, the people I know (and interviewed) who prioritized quality over location, ended up with much better results than their counterparts who insisted on location.

Now that we’ve identified the issues – which is key to improvement as you probably already know – let’s look into breaking this process down into smaller steps. 

First of all, let me share an unpopular opinion with you: if you’ve been working with the same therapist for over a year on the same issue, one of the following problems may be present: 

  1. The therapist isn’t providing you the right space and guidance to transform, or hasn’t helped you identify the right issue. Let me give you an example. A friend’s friend has bulimia. She’s been told by her therapist that it’ll take her as long to get rid of bulimia as long as she’s had it. Now, my jaw dropped when I heard that. Like, seriously? Our brains simply listen to us. So why would any therapist tell you a story that isn’t beneficial to your quickest recovery and healing? Remember – therapy isn’t supposed to last for years (even if some people tell you so). The latest brain research shows us that changes can happen really quickly and you should be supported in that mindset and provided with the right tools.
  2. You’re not ready to change (ouch!). See, fact is, our brain doesn’t like change. It can be really really tricky to change if we have some underlying thoughts and beliefs that something cannot be changed. Maybe that got even further supported by what the therapist says (see point a).

Secondly, there are two terms you need to know before choosing a therapist:

  1. Neurogenesis: the process that describes how neurons are formed long into high age.
  2. Neuroplasticity: the ability of the brain to change and form new connections.

These are two fundamental truths for every human being.

If you go into therapy, you will receive the best outcome if you’re aware that you can change and have everything in you to do so – no matter what you experienced or how you grew up. Your capability to change and transform is defined by your own will and desire today. A therapist’s job is to help guide you through this state and support whatever goals you have. 

Now that you have a basic knowledge about the factors that actually influence your decision, let’s look into the detailed steps. To avoid letting this article become 3000+ words, we’ve created a guide for you. That way, you don’t need to leave this tab open forever and get a step-by-step process at your hand on how to find the right therapist for your needs.

Want the exact guide with detailed steps? Click below to get it delivered straight to your inbox. Of course, this is a sensitive matter, so all your details are kept confidential and will never be shared with third parties.


P.S. Here are some more facts for those who love numbers and metrics: 

And, if you need some more hard numbers to support that, let me refer to scientist and engineer Tom Chi, Inventor and Co-Founder of Google-X. He has highlighted in one of his most famous talks, which I had a chance to experience live, that “98% of all atoms in the body cycle out within a year”. So, as much as you think you cannot change something, you are in a constant state of change or what he calls ‘inter-becoming’. Tom has calculated that ~7% of our body exchanges out in any given day. This means that whatever you have, 7% won’t be there anymore and a new 7% come in. Can you imagine what opportunities that brings?

Picture of Hi, I'm Pamela, the face of Hustle Less & Live More!

Hi, I'm Pamela, the face of Hustle Less & Live More!

I have trained and coached hundreds of people on personal development all over the globe – from Jamaica, the USA, to hosting workshops while being on a ship on the Atlantic ocean, all the way to Uganda, Austria, Ghana, the UAE, Pakistan, Singapore, and many more.

I am a go-getter, dream achiever, a true role model for behavior change, and I'm here to help you become the same.

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