Choosing the Right Therapist for You

Melissa Cluff, Marriage & Family Therapist, Cluff CounselingIn last week’s post, I talked about 5 things I want my future clients to know. This week, I’d like to address how to choose the right therapist for you–an essential element in having a successful experience in therapy.

The first two steps to choosing the right therapist for you are 1) being aware of which personality traits you connect well with, and 2) knowing what concerns you would like to work through with your therapist. First, take a moment to think about what characteristics you are looking for in a therapist, remembering that these characteristics can help make therapy a safe place for you. To give you an example, here are a few adjectives I use to describe myself as a counselor: cheerful, compassionate, nurturing, knowledgeable, available, humble, and direct.

The second part of finding the right therapist for you will depend on your needs and goals–why are you seeking therapy in the first place? What are you hoping to accomplish? Some of the more common reasons individuals seek counseling are for anxiety, depression, codependency, divorce support, family conflict resolution, and help during periods of transition or adjustment. In addition to these topics, I specialize in relationships, addictions (especially sex addiction), and trauma. I have sought years of supplementary certifications so I can be an experienced, knowledgeable, and qualified therapist in these three areas.

Below I will break down some of my “letters” (or the abbreviated qualifications) you see behind my name, my additional certifications, and where each one fits into my specializations. If, after reading this, you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me!

Melissa Cluff, MS, LMFT, CSAT, EMDR-II

  • MS: Master of Science


  • LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
    Marriage and family therapists are trained in Family Systems Theory. The idea here is that individuals cannot be understood in isolation from one another; I must look at all of the relationships a client is involved in, not just at the individual(s) that come into my office. Because I am a firm believer in the centrality of family and committed romantic relationships to and in one’s health, I devote time in focusing on my client’s relationships, and how each plays a role in shaping who they are.
    PREPARE/ENRICH certified: I am trained to administer PREPARE/ENRICH, the leading relationship inventory and skill-building program. These assessments help couples identify and strengthen growth areas in the relationship and I have found them to be extremely helpful with my pre- and post- marital couples. (Click here for more information on the assessment itself.)


  • CSAT: Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist I trained with Patrick Carnes through the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). Being a CSAT allows me to better assess, diagnose, and treat sex addicts and their partners compassionately and effectively. I worked with addicts in both in- and outpatient environments before I began my private practice. Using the knowledge I have gained as a CSAT, I have led therapeutic groups for female addicts, male addicts, and female partners of sex addicts, as well as, facilitated recovery intensives for couples. (Click here for more information on IITAP.)


  • EMDR-II: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (Level 1 & 2 trained) EMDR is a model of treatment that works to decrease the intensity of emotions connected to a traumatic memory. I became interested in EMDR after witnessing the positive outcomes it had on my clients at an inpatient treatment center. I recognized that many clients, not just those with addictions, come into my office with trauma, and I wanted to find a way to decrease the power that the trauma had on the clients. (Click here for additional information on EMDR.)”
  • I acquired additional training in trauma, and inner child work through Pia Mellody’s Post Induction Therapy (PIT). PIT is a therapeutic treatment approach assuming that childhood trauma, including child abuse and neglect, is the origin of developmental immaturity. It is often used in inpatient and intensive outpatient settings. I have found that using this model with my clients, in the later stages of treatment, has been extremely effective in fostering ongoing sobriety, reduction of trauma symptoms, and relational healing.

I share this information not to overwhelm or impress you, but to inform you. I have spent the last decade of my life acquiring the education and certifications needed to be the qualified, supportive therapist you deserve. I am warm, compassionate, attentive, and honest. I specialize in relationships, addictions, and trauma. If you are seeking professional help in one of those areas and think I have the attributes you would like to see in a therapist, give me a call.

9 thoughts on “Choosing the Right Therapist for You

  1. I agree, your goals should dictate what kind of therapist you need to find for yourself. After all, you’d seek out a family therapist for help with your kids or you’d search out a health therapist if you have an eating disorder. You definitely want to take the article’s advice and figure out what it is that you’re seeking help for.

  2. I didn’t realize how important it is to choose a therapist that can help you feel that you’re in a safe place. My wife has been struggling with depression for a while. Hopefully, we can use this info to find an expert that can help her get to a better mental station.

  3. Thanks for your comment about making sure that the therapist you choose will be able to connect with your personality. I like how you said that you should feel like you’re in a safe place when you’re with him/her. My sister is considering getting therapy and is looking into therapists she’s comfortable opening up to.

  4. Thank you for your advice on choosing the right counselor for an individual. I especially appreciate how you summed it up with choosing a personality you mesh well with and knowing what you want to focus on. I am currently looking for a counseling service for my daughter and now feel more prepared to choose the right one.

  5. I appreciate what you said about making sure you know what you want to work with before you see a counselor. My parents suggested that I contact a counseling service because I’ve been having terrible nightmares and difficulty sleeping. Maybe I should tell the therapist about those problems in an initial visit to see if they can help.

  6. I agree that identifying your needs is an important step to finding the right therapist. It would be good to find someone who is qualified and experienced in order to ensure they will help you out. My sister needs help dealing with depression, so she’ll have to find a therapist that is properly qualified for this.

  7. I agree with you Melissa, one of the big things that people need to do before they start looking for a therapist is figure out why they are looking for therapy. After all, there are many different fields of therapy and, depending on what you need, you’re going to see a different kind of psychologist. For example, if you need counseling for your marriage or relationship then a marriage and family therapist is probably best.

  8. Thanks for your comment about how you should hire a therapist that specializes in the service that you need. I like how you said that they should be able to help you with your goals. My husband’s looking for counseling that he can receive for his anxiety; I’ll pass on your tips.

  9. One of my good friends has pretty severe PTSD. I’ve been thinking of helping him find a good therapist, so I appreciated the tips you gave in your article. Looking for someone with an EMDR-II certification is definitely something I’ll lookout for!

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