Reviewed by Jodi Jaspan, MS, LPC
When trying to find a counselor who is a good fit, clients have a lot to consider. A therapist’s age is one of the many factors a client may take into account when choosing the counselor they would like to work with on their therapy journey.
As a younger counselor, I have encountered a few clients who have not wanted to work with me because of my age. However, there are both pros and cons to taking age into consideration when deciding whether or not you want to work with a particular therapist.
The Benefits of Considering the Age of Your Therapist
A major benefit to taking a therapist’s age into consideration is feeling empowered to choose a therapist who feels like the best possible fit for you. Maybe you’ve realized from your experience that you don’t work well with older counselors because they remind you of a parent or an authority figure. As a result, you might work best with someone who is closer to your age or younger than you. Conversely, you may have experienced difficulty maintaining healthy boundaries with or feeling attracted to counselors who are close in age to you. This may be a good reason to choose someone who is older than you. As you can see, there are some good reasons for taking age into account when deciding whether or not to work with a particular therapist.
The Downside of Taking Age Into Account
There are also cons to considering age when making a decision about working with a therapist. You may miss out on the opportunity to work with someone who can be helpful simply because of assumptions or preconceived notions that come about due to the person’s age. It’s important to recognize that a therapist’s age is not necessarily an indicator of how experienced, relatable, or helpful they will be. Even young therapists have experience helping clients through their practicums, internships, and the supervised clinical experience that is required to become licensed professional counselors.
Clients sometimes assume that a younger therapist will not be able to help them because they “do not understand what it’s like” to experience the issues that come with being an older adult. A good therapist will be able to understand what their client is going through and relate to them, not because they have necessarily gone through the same exact experiences, but because of their ability to empathize. Part of a therapist’s gift, and what makes them so good at their jobs, is their ability to put themselves in other people’s shoes.
How to Decide Whether Age Matters
In order to decide whether age should be considered when choosing your next therapist, I encourage you to examine your past treatment experiences. Take note of whether age was a factor in whether you did or didn’t work well with your previous counselors and use this information when choosing your next one. Also, examine any assumptions you may be making about your therapist’s age and what they mean about this person. You can address these assumptions by speaking directly and openly with a therapist about any concerns you have regarding how their age will impact your treatment. It’s important that you choose a therapist who you feel is the best and most helpful fit for you.
Clients are entitled to have preferences when it comes to who their therapist is and may have good reasons to gravitate toward someone who is more similar to them. Some clients feel safer working with a female therapist; others know they do better with male therapists. Some clients from the LGBTQ community prefer a counselor who identifies as being in the community as well. Some clients who are people of color prefer a therapist who is also a person of color. Sometimes these preferences enhance a person’s therapeutic experience, and sometimes they can hinder it. To make the best decision, examine where your preferences are coming from, open up a dialogue with your potential therapist or therapists, and make a decision based not on assumptions, but on what you feel will give you the best possible treatment experience.
If you’re considering therapy, The Light Program has counselors from a variety of backgrounds. Contact our admissions department and choose a therapist you can identify with today.