How to Choose a Therapist
Often, when things are feeling so far beyond our abilities to handle things in our lives, we decide to seek therapy. We are looking for some extra support and new coping skills to handle our stress. Sometimes, we are feeling paralyzed by depression or our anxieties and unable to do the things that have before made us feel better, stronger, and more resilient in the past. But finding a therapist can be tough. Especially when it comes to navigating all the barriers that can sometimes prevent us from getting the help we need, when we need it. Here are some of my suggestions for making the process of finding that good fit with the right therapist.
1. Decide What Type of Person You Want to Connect With....
Do you want to see a female or a male? Or maybe it doesn’t matter one way or the other to you? Do you want a person who is older than you are, so you can feel like they might have some wisdom and life experience? Or someone your age, so you feel like they can relate to you? How about someone younger, so that you can feel assured that they are fresh out of school and bursting with the latest knowledge and enthusiasm? Finding the right fit so that you can be comfortable in the therapeutic relationship is essential to moving forward and building trust in the supportive environment.
2. Find the Right Counselor for Your Insurance Benefits.
Make it easy on yourself and go straight to your insurance company’s website and look up which therapists in your community accept your insurance. You might even get more information, such as their address, contact information, and perhaps even a little bit of background about them.
3. No Insurance? No problem.
If you don’t have insurance or you wish to pay for services directly, great. Start looking directly at the internet for those agencies or therapists that might have sliding scales or do pro bono work. If money isn’t an issue for you, try asking people you trust if they might know of someone you can contact or do an internet search for your community as well.
4. Do Your Homework.
There are plenty of online directories for therapists who will be listed in your community. Websites like Psychology Today and Good Therapy have directory listings of mental health therapists in your area and they can give you a description of their therapeutic philosophies and a list of the insurance companies they work with. You will also be able to see their photos and get a lot more information about the work they do.
5. Don’t Get Discouraged.
Sometimes therapists have waiting lists. If you find someone that accepts your insurance, has the right characteristics and specializes in some of the issues you are dealing with, wait for them to get an opening. Within a realistic amount of time, of course. Or ask them if they have a colleague that they might recommend. Most therapists will be happy to give you some names of other therapists in the community who specialize in different areas and populations.
6. Give Them a Chance.
Congratulations! You made it to your first appointment. Those first few sessions are mostly about paperwork and getting to know about you and your therapeutic goals. Give it at least a few visits before you decide if you are feeling comfortable with this person. Not everyone is a good fit for each other. Your therapist wants you to feel comfortable as well so don’t worry if you just aren't feeling it. Let them know and help you to brainstorm on where to go from here. If you do think it’s a good fit, great! Time to move forward and start feeling better with your new skills and support.