When I brought home my mini goldendoodle at 8 weeks old, I was completely unprepared for my naughty puppy.
Photos by Liz Gray, LCSW, RPT
Surprisingly, the majority of my stress as a new “doodle mom” wasn’t from Bailey’s shredding, or her accidents, or even when she escaped the back deck and ran into a stranger’s house! My stress came from finding her the right GROOMER.
I took Bailey to three different groomers until we found the right fit. Now, my only criteria for a groomer, other than treating my pup well, was to not “poodle my doodle.” Don’t get me wrong, I love the poodle in her (she’s 75% poodle, after all)-including her intelligence, major stubbornness (its amazing how a 15 lb dog becomes 100 lbs when she doesn’t want to go in the car), and loving personality. But I’m not a fan of the shaved face and paws, aka the traditional poodle cut.
Unfortunately, Bailey got “poodled” a few times.
Were any of these groomers bad? NO! They all treated me, and most importantly Bailey, with kindness. Was one a better fit than the others? Most certainly. How did I know? I knew I found the right fit when she:
- Listened to my concerns,
- Answers my questions,
- Explained what she was doing (and WHY), and
- Changed strategies when something wasn’t working.
When Bailey was upset while getting the full blast of the hairdryer in her face, my groomer kept the hairdryer on low and angled it away from her face instead. Because Bailey cried and screamed the whole time when I left, we both agreed that I would stay during her haircuts. We worked together to decrease Bailey’s stress and we became a team.
What does this have to do with finding a therapist? Everything!
Just like I shopped around for a groomer, it’s important to shop around for a therapist. In other words,
GO THERAPIST SHOPPING!
The most important part of a therapeutic relationship is just that- the relationship. Even if a therapist has the most outstanding credentials and experience, if you don’t feel a connection or comfortable with them, it’s just not the right fit.
Does that mean they are a bad therapist? NO! Are some therapists a better fit than others? Most certainly YES.
You see, Therapist A might not be the right therapist for you, but they are the right fit for many other people. Client B may not be the right client for me, but I am the right fit for many others.
When choosing a therapist, it’s perfectly acceptable to do your own research before you ever reach out. You may have preferences about the following:
- Gender/ age/ location
- Availability (i.e. do they have evening or weekend openings)?
- Are they in-network with my insurance company? If not, does their full fee fit into my budget? Will they provide me with a Superbill to submit to my insurance for out-of-network benefits?
- Are they in private practice, a group practice, a nonprofit agency, or a community mental health agency?
- What are their credentials? (i.e. Licensed Clinical Social Worker- LCSW vs. Licensed Professional Counselor- LPC vs. Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist- LMFT)
- What is their theoretical orientation? (i.e. do they practice Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)? Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)? Sandtray therapy? Are they trained in couples? Children? Anxiety disorders?)
- Do they offer a free consultation? (many, but not all therapists offer this).
Once you have an idea of the type of therapist you would like, it may be helpful to narrow your search to 2-3 people who fit your criteria. When reading their profile on websites such as Psychology Today or looking at their individual website, do you feel like they are speaking to you and your struggles? Do they emit warmth and genuineness?
Do you think they could help you?
After finding the therapist(s) you would like to contact, give them a call or send a brief message to set up a consultation. Make sure you don’t give too much detailed information in the initial message, as it is most likely not a secure form of communication. If you are able to set up a consultation, think of it as a very informal interview, where both parties are seeing if it is the right fit. If you don’t want to move forward, it is okay to say so. If the therapist thinks someone with a certain specialty may be a better fit, hopefully they will provide you with some referrals.
If both of you agree that it is a right fit, your therapist will most likely suggest to set up an intake session. They may have paperwork for you to sign electronically before the session, print out ahead of time, or fill out when you arrive.
I wish you the best of luck in finding the right therapist.
Now, go ahead and start your search!
P.S. I recently moved, so I need to start my search for a groomer all over again!
[Bailey’s reaction when I told her the news.]
Liz Gray, LCSW, RPT is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Registered Play Therapist in Connecticut. Liz works with children, adolescents, and young adults, and especially loves to use EMDR and sandtray therapy when working with clients. For more information, feel free to CONTACT ME!