When it comes to successful therapy on BetterHelp or anywhere else, the right professional is paramount in helping you feel safe and comfortable in your work. Therapy entails a combination of listening, guiding, and offering practical solutions for change. It’s vulnerable work, and you won’t mesh with everyone.
Though the BetterHelp platform does a good job of providing the tools that facilitate working with the right therapist (read our full review for more detail about how BetterHelp works), the overall process can be overwhelming as you weigh various factors. How do you make the most of BetterHelp’s algorithmic matching process? What if you want more control over the process? How can you tell when it’s time to change therapists? And if you need support now, how do you make that quick decision?
From extensive testing and experience administering therapy, we’ve put together this list of the top 7 insider tips that will help.
Tip #1: Answer the screening questions appropriately
Tip #2: Consider the therapist qualities that matter to you
Tip #3: Assess your top treatment priorities
Tip #4: Answer the “what brings you here” section thoroughly
Tip #5: Understand the limitations of the first session
Tip #6: Listen to your intuition
Tip #7: Roll up your sleeves and choose your own BetterHelp therapist
Now let’s get into what you need to know!
When you first sign up for BetterHelp, you’ll answer several questions about your current needs and physical and emotional health. At first, this screening questionnaire may seem daunting. Becoming aware of your own struggles can be painful!
With that in mind, your answers will help your therapist understand your specific needs and difficulties. For example, a client struggling with chronic pain usually has a different set of goals than a client struggling with unemployment.
Even if you feel embarrassed or ashamed, try to answer each question honestly. Successful treatment often depends on your willingness to be forthcoming and authentic. Remember that good therapists won’t judge you; they simply want to understand who you are and what you need.
After answering the initial screening, you can indicate if you have any particular therapist preferences. These preferences are personal to you, so take a moment to reflect on what you need to feel more comfortable.
For example, some clients prefer to work with a same-sex clinician or someone closer to them in age. Others might benefit from working with someone who shares their religious beliefs.
When determining your preferences, keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers. Your safety remains the greatest priority, so make sure you honor that integral need.
Additionally, you can change your preferences at any point. After BetterHelp matches you with a therapist, you may request a switch if you want to work with someone else.
After selecting your preferences, BetterHelp will ask you to determine your therapy goals. The site provides a master list detailing specific issues like depression, grief, self-esteem, eating, relationships, and more. Take a few moments to think carefully about them and then rank each issue as most important, somewhat important, or least important.
If you’re not sure how to rank a particular topic, ask yourself:
- How much distress does this issue cause me on a daily basis?
- What could happen if this issue progressively worsens?
- How does this issue impact other parts of my mental or physical well-being?
It’s normal to want to address various issues when seeking professional support. Likewise, therapy is a fluid and collaborative process. You may tackle a variety of topics in your work. Consequently, if new stressors emerge, your therapists may adjust your treatment to address the current areas of concern.
However, it helps if you prioritize your most essential needs before starting treatment. This prioritization supports BetterHelp in determining the appropriate therapist match. It also ensures that you make the most out of each session.
This section allows you to share with your potential therapist details about who you are. Feel free to use as much detail as possible. The more information you provide, the better your therapist can assess your needs and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Remember that you don’t need one specific reason to seek help. Many people seek therapy because they need support and compassion. Moreover, they want to share their feelings with someone who won’t judge them.
To make the most from this section, consider sharing information about:
- Any past experiences (both positive and negative) that you’ve had with therapy.
- Concerns you may have about therapy.
- Preferred mode(s) of communication (i.e., video chats, messaging, or phone calls).
- Pertinent issues that require immediate attention.
- Anything else that you would like a potential therapist to know about you.
More information is better than less information. The best time to start sharing lots of details is right now during BetterHelp’s matching process.
Your first therapy session might feel somewhat stiff and formal. This is fairly typical, a natural result of both you and the therapist getting acquainted. Your therapist needs to ask you questions about yourself and you might feel nervous about divulging such personal information at the outset.
Even though a connection isn’t instantaneous, that doesn’t mean things won’t improve. With time, therapy typically feels more comfortable. Despite the initial awkwardness, some positive signs include feeling:
- Comforted that your therapist really wants to know who you are.
- Validated about your fears or struggles.
- Safe while answering their questions.
- Reassured that things can get better.
- Hopeful and encouraged after the end of the session.
You may need to try another one or two sessions before making a determination about whether you’ve found the right therapist. If you’re not sure how to proceed, consider discussing your concerns with your therapist. They want to make sure you’re getting the best care for your needs, whether that means you’re working with them or with someone else.
This is your growth process, and your feelings and needs matter. Therapists have different styles and methods of intervening, and not all therapists work well with each client. You may want to reassess your therapist if you experience:
- Dread before or during sessions.
- The sense that your therapist doesn’t listen to you.
- Stagnation that doesn’t seem to have a clear resolution.
- Harsh judgment in any sense.
- Boundary issues (i.e, your therapist doesn’t act like a professional).
- Constant scheduling or cancellation issues.
- Pressure into talking about certain topics or doing certain things.
On BetterHelp, you can switch therapists at any time and for any reason. Pay attention to what your gut tells you. You deserve to feel comfortable and supported during this vulnerable work.
Though it’s certainly possible for BetterHelp’s algorithm to provide a match that’s just as good as – or even better than – what we’d select for ourselves, some people who use BetterHelp want more control over the therapist matching process.
Be honest with yourself as a first rule. If you believe you’ll be able to open up more from the start by having more control over your initial therapist match, then this insider tip is just for you. You can avoid the algorithmically derived matching and choose your own BetterHelp therapist if you look for an easily overlooked link on the BetterHelp website.
If you go to the BetterHelp website on any device and then scroll to the bottom of the page, you’ll find a footer link that says “Find a Therapist”. Clicking that link, you can specify your location in order to find a list of BetterHelp therapists from which to choose.
The list defaults to 20 people at a time, but clicking your browser’s refresh button will show you additional therapists.
Choosing your own therapist in this fashion allows you to examine how therapists describe themselves and what information they reveal in terms of background, professional specialties, and personal interests. In addition to the preferences you could consider during BetterHelp’s standard matching approach (e.g., gender, age, and religious/spiritual beliefs), you’ll subsequently have additional considerations to explore:
- Do you get a good feeling from how the therapists talk about themselves?
- Is there any overlap between a therapist’s personal interests and your own?
- Do you feel that a therapist’s professional specialties align well with your needs?
- Sometimes you can get a small taste of personality from somebody’s writing. In the therapist’s written style, is there a level of professional polish or approachability that you find appealing?
- What kind of professional background and training would make a therapist best-equipped to help you? This is a tricky subject. With so many credentials and titles in therapy, most people do not know how to make sense of all of them. Are you better off with a psychologist, a marriage and family therapist (LMFT), a licensed mental health counselor, or someone with a different title? We’ve got a separate guide that will help you demystify all of the therapist titles.
As with BetterHelp’s standard approach to matching, this insider’s tip for choosing your own BetterHelp therapist requires that you take the appropriate time to reflect on your needs, priorities, and preferences. Be honest with yourself because you deserve the best match possible.
Finding the right therapist on BetterHelp may involve some trial and error. Many therapists agree that a positive therapeutic relationship is the most significant factor in treatment, so give the process as long as you need until you settle on the right match. BetterHelp makes it easy to switch therapists for a reason.
If you opt for the standard matching process on BetterHelp, making yourself as much of an open book as possible during the questionnaire will help. Also, don’t ever hesitate to raise concerns with your therapist. Take the time to assess how your therapy is progressing. The one thing to avoid is avoiding the subject.