How to Choose the Right Online Therapy Provider
Updated: Apr 22
Whether you are new to seeking therapy, or have been in therapy many times in the past, it can be a daunting task to pick a new therapy provider. One of the reasons that people find this decision overwhelming is because they realize that their choice of a therapy provider could have a significant impact on their life - therapy is expensive and we are usually seeking it out because we’re feeling vulnerable already, so the stakes feel high. With hundreds of providers available, it can feel overwhelming to choose between different styles of therapy, names, and profiles, without really having a sense of how to choose the right match.
Getting the Right Fit
In a previous blog post, I actually mentioned that research has found that the quality of the therapeutic relationship - which basically refers to your sense of how well you “fit” with your therapist, is the most important factor in determining how successful therapy will be. More important even than the type of therapy they do! What goes ito getting the right fit is a complicated topic, which involves many factors such as feeling safe, feeling understood, and special training or expertise in specific areas. It may also involve subtle things, like sharing a sense of humour or just liking how it feels to be around someone.
When you are choosing a therapist, one of the most important elements of a good fit is your sense of safety in the relationship. Although therapy can involve sitting with difficult feelings and discussing challenging topics, you should basically feel like your therapist “gets” you. Particularly for people from marginalized communities who have felt like they are living in a world that wasn’t built for them, feeling like your therapist really sees and understands you can be a powerful experience. This is also true for those who have grown up in family environments where they may not have been fully seen or heard by their parents or other family members. For these individuals, the therapeutic relationship has the potential to be a uniquely healing experience. A sense of safety in therapy may mean that you feel comfortable being your whole self with your therapist. It also means that if something isn’t going right, you feel like you can tell your therapist and they will welcome your feedback.
Another important question to ask when choosing a therapist is whether they have lived experience in the communities you live in or with identities that are important to you. Do they share a worldview or common values with you? As a queer and non-binary person, I understand how it can feel more comfortable to talk to someone who understands the world you live in. When you come to counselling, you don’t want to have to educate your therapist about your identity. BIPOC people may also experience the struggle of not being understood by a white therapist, and may prefer to work with another BIPOC person or someone from their own cultural background who may have lived experience with nuances of their culture, or who understands the pain of racism in a way that a white therapist can’t.
The Importance of Trust
When choosing a therapist, you want to choose someone that you feel like you trust. Does your therapist behave in a consistent, predictable way? Are they transparent about boundaries or policies? Do they listen to your needs and preferences and take them into account? Particularly for people living with trauma, trust may be the most important aspect of the relationship. People living with trauma may struggle to build trusting relationships with others and need a therapist to pay special attention to building the conditions of a trusting relationship. This process is called trauma-informed practice. All of our counsellors at Stillwaters practice from a trauma-informed approach, and are focused on building trust so that you can show up as your whole self.
Education and Experience
Another question to ask when choosing an online therapist is: Do they have expertise in the areas you want to discuss? No one is an expert in every single area, and counsellors all have specialties - areas where they have lots of experience and may have completed extra study in order to to be experts in their field. At Stillwaters, we have counsellors who focus in areas such as queer and trans issues, family and relationship challenges, OCD treatment, and substance use. One of the benefits of choosing online therapy is that no matter where you are located in British Columbia, you have access to a variety of expertise and do not have to settle for a generalist therapist who only knows a little about what you are going through.
Some of the questions that you need to ask when choosing a therapist are more practical, like what is their schedule like? Do they have a waitlist? Will they work around your schedule? Our counsellors are available evenings and weekends. Many of our clients are busy with work, family, and community life and need to find time for a counselling appointment between their other commitments. Online counselling offers them the flexibility to do so. Both Andrea and Ben are currently accepting new evening clients.
It may be important to ask a potential therapist about their fees and billing. At Stillwaters Counselling our therapists accept payment by credit card or e-transfer. We direct bill FNHA and ICBC, but at this time are unable to direct bill other insurance providers. You can check with your extended health provider if they cover psychotherapy with a registered social worker. We will issue a receipt at the time of payment, which you can give to your extended health provider for reimbursement, according to your extended health policy. Our services are not covered by MSP at this time.
Checking In With Yourself: How Do You Feel?
Maybe the most important question in choosing a therapist is how does it feel to talk to them? In a general sense, when you talk to your therapist, you should feel at ease. It can be hard to know from an online profile if you’re going to “click” with someone. We offer free fifteen minute phone or video consultations so that you can get a sense of fit with a prospective counsellor. This is a good time to ask them questions about their experience with the issues you are hoping to discuss, their training and professional background, or any other questions that will help you get a sense of whether you might be a good fit. After your consultation, be sure to check in with yourself and ask yourself whether you felt heard and understood.
I know that if you are reading an article about how to choose a therapist, you likely haven’t started therapy yet, but in order to choose the right therapist, it is very important to check in with yourself about how you feel and what you need - which is a skill you’ll probably practice regularly in therapy! Our free video consultations are a great way to get a feel for whether online therapy might be a good option for you, and to get a sense of whether one of our therapists might be the right fit. To book a consultation with one of our therapists, you can book directly in our online calendar or reach out by email!