How to Choose a Therapist in Wake Forest, NC?

Finding a therapist, counselor, social worker, or psychologist in Wake Forest, North Carolina

First of, congratulations on taking this very big and brave step into insight, healing, and transformation that comes from counseling and therapy. You’re already ahead of the game because you’ve been able to acknowledge that you might need help, whether it’s related to your inner critic that won’t shut up or relationships with your partner that suck right now.

And you know what? Despite what the society thinks, this acknowledgment does not mean that you are weak. Not at all.  Quite the opposite, actually!

Acknowledging that you need help and seeking it means that you are strong and brave for accepting responsibility for your life and for your happiness.

Because the truth it, we all struggle with our demons, big or small. And if we ignore them and keep shoving them under the bed, they will impact how we view ourselves and the world and block us from being happy. And we don’t want that.

So, you have been contemplating to start therapy for some time now, and are ready to search for the right therapist (aka counselor, psychologist, social worker, clinician)

So the question is:

How do I choose a therapist? There are so many of them in Raleigh and Wake Forest, and I want to make sure I get the right one.

You are right. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with how many psychotherapists and counselors come up when you simply google “therapist in Wake Forest” or “counselor in Raleigh.”

So let’s get right into it. Below I’ve narrowed it down to 4 questions you can keep in mind when searching for a therapist. You can find the answers to these questions by browsing through therapists’ and counselors’ websites, blog posts, watching their videos (if they have any), or just ask them on the phone when you call them for a brief consultation to see if you are a good fit for each other.

1. Do they have specialized training in what I need help with?

So, beyond checking their basic trainings and credentials (license number, for example), you want to make sure that the therapist has a specialized training in what you are looking to get help in.

Think about it. If you need a hip replacement, are you going to go to a generalist who knows a little bit of everything or are you going to find a specialist who has been trained and has experience in hip replacements?

I bet you would pick the specialist because you’d want to make sure your legs are of equal length (ouch!) and your joints are not dislocated after the surgery. I know, I would!

Translating this analogy back to the mental health world, there is a number of issues that require additional training for therapists to be able to really understand and help clients. For example, things like an eating disorder, is a very serious mental health condition (Anorexia nervosa has the highest death rates of any psychiatric illness) and requires a team of professionals, including a therapist, dietician, a medical doctor and so on, all of whom need to have the knowledge, skills, and being able collaborate together to ensure client’s safety. So, since I don’t have this specialization under my belt, I always refer my clients to an eating disorder specialist.

Psychotherapists, like myself, who work with couples doing marital and relationship therapy, also need a specialized training. Why? Because working with a couple is VERY different than working with an individual client and requires a different set of skills beyond traditional therapy skills, like empathy, listening skills, boundary setting, critical thinking and so on.

I would feel completely lost during the sessions with my couples if I was not trained in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT), a world renowned evidence based modality. And by training I don’t mean taking a 2-hour online course and calling it a day. Even though I am still working on my certification, my training involved a 4-day externship, participating in several supervision groups, 4 full weekends of “core skills trainings” during a 6-month period, and videotaping my sessions and receiving supervision/consultation from more experienced therapists.

It’s a process for me and it’s something that I work on every day (and will continue to do so) because I love seeing my couples happy and connected. And I love to be GREAT at what I do!

2. Do they stay curious about their profession and up to date with their training regardless of how many years they have been in practice?

I will be honest-there are a lot of amazing therapists out there who are passionate and really good at what they do. I meet such therapists and collaborate with them every week. However, some therapists are much less enthusiastic about their job. They are the ones I see snoring during the conferences and they are completely content with their “wash-rinse-repeat” kinda approach. If you are like me, you’d probably hate to be stuck with the latter one because they most definitely suck.

So, when you are looking through the potential therapists’ websites and directories (like Psychology Today, for example, which is a very big one now), see what kind of things they are involved in, what kind of things they are writing about, whether you can feel their passion and drive through their work. 

If I can use myself as an example here once again: I love learning. I am always looking for the next insight, research study, podcast, break through that can help me and my clients to deepen our understanding about ourselves and our well being. I make recommendations for books and YouTube clips all the time. And my clients can see and feel that passion and curiosity in our work together.

Unlike many therapists out there, I do not think of myself as a expert, rather a fellow traveler.

I believe that my clients are the experts of their life.

And I believe that my clients have in built propensity towards self actualization where my job is to help them remove all the obstacles.

Sometimes I make mistakes and I admit them to my clients. I happen to have a pretty direct therapy style and I often worry that my words came out too strong. In that case, I’d go back and check in with my clients during our next session to make sure I stay relevant to them, but effective in what I do.

3. Do they love their job?

Again, this might not matter to some of you, but I want to make sure I get the best care possible, especially when it comes to my physical and mental health. And especially when there are so many great options out there.

So how do you do that?

You find someone who loves their job and is passionate about it. Because this passion and enthusiasm will infect, inspire, and transform your life. Without it, change might be much more difficult to achieve and sustain. 

Also, as a therapist, I must do my own work around my personal blocks and struggles. If I don’t, my professional life will struggle because I can only take my clients as far as I have taken myself in this journey of life.

If I don’t work on my personal growth and development, how can i expect my clients to do that?

And being a therapist is like the coolest job in the world, so why would you pursue this career in the first place if this is something you don’t enjoy?

4. Does their style + schedule match yours?

The final question is huge because it has to do with whether therapist’ personality and style matches yours. Research shows over and over again that the relationship between the therapist and the client is the best predictor of success in therapy. In other words, if you don’t like me and how I talk and carry myself, you probably won’t get much out of therapy with me.

So do you homework to get a feel of your potential therapists’ style.

Do you get along better with people who are more “formal” and politically correct or people who are direct, don’t beat around the bushes, with occasional swearing to keep things real?

Would you rather be diagnosed because you’d like the clarity and knowledge of knowing what’s exactly going with you or would you want to work with someone who thinks that diagnosis limits our vision?

Do you follow a particular religion and it is important to you that your therapist is operating from similar values? Or do you not care at all about religion? A lot of therapists here in Wake Forest, North Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Durham, and the surrounding Triangle areas are specifically faith-based. Others, like myself, consider themselves secular therapists. Which means that I do not belong to any religion, but I understand and appreciate spirituality as a concept and a coping mechanism, and I even incorporate things like meditation and mindfulness in my sessions when appreciate.

The topic of religion becomes especially important when working with couples who are on the brink of divorce or need to make a decision about keeping the child vs doing an abortion. Your therapist should never push you to one side or another based on their personal beliefs.

Lastly, do they offer services that work for your schedule and needs?

Some therapists strictly provide in-office counseling only (more traditional therapy) while others offer online counseling for those clients who live far away or don’t want to sit in traffic. On top of proving in-office and online counseling to residents of Virginia and North Carolina (and more countries abroad), I also offer in-home counseling. Which basically means I come to you-how cool is that? To learn more about how it works, click here.

Here you have it: 4 questions to ask a potential therapist to make sure you click and understand what you are signing up for. Remember, that, unfortunately (like with everything in life), there are no guarantees, and sometimes you just need to follow your gut and see how it goes. I tell my clients to always give it at least four sessions before they make a decision to stay or go. I think, that four sessions is a fair amount of sessions to get a feel for the therapist and the therapeutic process itself, so that you are confident about your choice and are ready to prioritize therapy.

What do you think? Are you ready to stop feeling rejected, minimized, and completely alone in your relationships? Do you have any questions for me? Contact me at (703) 347-3200, I would love to be of service. If you are looking for help with your relationship counseling, you can read more about how I can help here.


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Irina Baechle,LCSW is a founder, owner, and a licensed therapist at IrinaBaechleCounselingLLC. She specializes in helping distant couples and anxious singles build truly connected and meaningful relationships. She currently offers online and in-home counseling services to residents of Virginia and North Carolina (and most countries abroad). Click here to schedule your free 15 min consultation. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Youtube for useful tips and resources.

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