Finding the right therapist! “Ugh, where do I begin?” The process of finding the right therapist can be overwhelming, no doubt.
You might be juggling a lot of questions right now:
• Will they accept my insurance?
• Will they have hours that work for me?
• Will they judge me?
• Can I afford it?
• Should I see a man or a woman? Older? Younger?
• What if I don’t like them?
• Are they close to my home or work?
• Will they get me?
Rest assured – all of these questions are completely normal. Take a deep breath and consider these next steps to finding the right therapist that fits you best.
Consult a friend or an online resource for a referral.
Often some of the best resources are right in your group of friends. Reach out and confide in someone you trust to see if they know of a good mental health therapist that they could recommend. Alternatively, search a reliable resource like Psychology Today, or Good Therapy to find a licensed therapist in your area. These helpful search tools help you filter therapists by specialties and geographical areas.
Do your best to narrow your list down to three to four licensed therapists to contact. If your insurance provides mental health counseling, you can also look to their website to find someone in-network.
Ask to speak over the phone.
This is an important step. Spend some time speaking with the mental health therapist over the phone and offer up some information about why you are seeking help. Ask them if they have any experience with the issues you are facing and if they think they may be able to help. You might also want to ask them how they typically spend their time with clients – meaning is it conversational based, do they utilize a particular style of therapy, or is it more of a listening/reflecting practice.
If you don’t feel good about how the call went, chances are it might not be a good fit in person.
Making an appointment.
After you have spent some time on the phone, check-in with your gut and see how you feel. What does your gut say (aside from the butterflies you may feel from going through this process, of course)? Does it feel like you would like to meet them? Listen to your instincts and decide. Importantly, whether you’ve done therapy or not – seeking therapy can feel awkward. This is totally normal. Try to differentiate between your nerves and your instincts about if you will click with this person.
Ask about insurance and payment options before you meet.
Many therapists accept insurance, many do not. Most are willing to provide you with a “superbill” so you can submit claims to your insurance. Either way, be sure you are clear on how their billing and insurance practices work. No one likes to be surprised by fees, payment or insurance hiccups.
The general rule of thumb is that your fee is due at the time of service and there is a 24-48 hour cancellation policy. If you don’t show up for a confirmed session, you should expect to pay for the missed hour.
After you meet.
Once you’ve had your first therapy session, check-in with yourself and see how you feel. Did you feel comfortable in their office? Did you feel heard? Did you feel like this might be someone you could open up to and not feel judged?
Keep in mind it might take a few sessions to better understand these questions, but do take time to ask yourself them.
• Not every therapist is right for everyone. It’s ok to try someone else. The therapist won’t take it personally.
• Choose a therapist that is close to work or home. If you pick someone far away from you, it may complicate your motivation to get to your appointment.
• You shouldn’t know more about your therapist than you do about your friend. As a rule, therapists should be mindful about what personal information they disclose. Sometimes they may share something personal as a clinical intervention – that’s ok. Be wary of anyone who is sharing a lot of personal information with you, after all this hour is about you – not them.
• Be wary of lots of advice. Although clients often ask for advice, most therapists shy away from giving it, because the process of therapy is about figuring out what YOU want to do.
That said, there will be times when a therapist gives clinical recommendations, and that is different. For example, your therapist may recommend you see a medical doctor for an evaluation, or they may make a recommendation to avoid social media as it’s contributing to your anxiety. Your therapist may suggest you try a variety of things outside of the session to address certain symptoms. These are all normal and expected during therapy. If you ask your therapist “what would you do?” A good therapeutic response might look like; “well, let’s talk about your options and how you feel about them”.
We get it! Finding the right therapist is daunting, but following the steps above should make the process a little easier.