How To Find A Therapist
I’ve written a number of posts about my own therapeutic experience (some linked at the end of this post), but I realized after I got the question “how do I find a therapist” from several people that I didn’t actually have one that addressed that. Whoops.
As you know, therapy has been invaluable to me for a number of reasons and I’m a big proponent of as many people getting help from therapy as possible. Also, I don’t just mean when your life is in crisis. I’ve learned many practical life skills and solutions to minor problems I was having by simply keeping a regular therapy schedule.
I know that cost and access to to therapy can be a large barrier, which is unfortunate and needs to change. This post assumes the reader has medical insurance, but if that’s not the case, I also wrote a thorough post about more affordable therapy options. Here are some helpful suggestions on how to find a therapist.
Ask for recommendations
This is a big reason why we need to be more open about discussing therapy and mental health help with others. If we have no idea who has been to therapy, we also have no idea who to ask for help when we are looking for ourselves.
Neil and I found our couple’s therapist (and my individual therapist) by simply asking. My sister-in-law is a psychologist and we asked if she may have any connections to someone in Chicago. She was able to recommend a counseling center, we called, and we found someone who was extremely helpful in our situation (but not on the first try).
Check your insurance
If you’re not sure who to ask for a recommendation and you have insurance, you can either check your insurance website or give them a call to find out what your options are. Combing through insurance websites can be tedious and overwhelming, so if you can, I’d suggest calling so that you can get a faster, more direct answer. You can find out which therapists are in-network and then do some online research to see what kind of therapy they practice and who seems like they might be a good fit.
Ask other therapists
Once you’ve made a list of a few potential contenders (this is important — don’t just pick one and hope for the best), give them a call and explain what you’re looking to get help with. If you find out that that’s not their specialty or don’t get a great vibe from the call, it’s completely fine to ask them if they know of any other therapists in the community who might be a better fit. The therapeutic community is well-connected and a great source of recommendations.
Check for a free consultation
Many therapists offer free consultations either in person or over the phone. Ask if they offer these so you can get a better idea of their personality and how you may (or may not) mesh together.
Pay attention to how you feel
Seeing a therapist is an interpersonal relationship. You need to be able to feel comfortable with that person in order to open up and do the necessary work. Pay attention to how you feel before you even call them on the phone. How does their picture online make you feel? I can tell you that I’m more comfortable talking to a female vs. male therapist, so that helped me narrow down potential choices right away. When you call them, how do you feel during the conversation? Obviously, you’re likely to feel guarded on your first phone call, but do you feel like there may be a potential for a working relationship? Finally, for those you do meet in person, take an inventory of your feelings throughout the whole process. Your intuition is important in determining whether you will be comfortable in that therapeutic relationship.
It’s important to remember that you don’t have to stick with the first therapist you see. In order for therapy to be successful, you need to feel comfortable. If you don’t, it’s perfectly fine and reasonable for you to try others until you find a good match.
Obviously, given the state of the world in coping with the pandemic, finding a therapist to see in person may prove to be slightly more difficult. Many are offering virtual appointments, but I understand that that may seem awkward, especially if you’re a new patient. Since stress, anxiety, and depression are all increased due to the pandemic, however, don’t let this be a reason to avoid therapy. Here are some of the pros and cons of telehealth.
Other helpful post about therapy:
Do you have any additional suggestions on how to find a therapist? If so, please leave them in the comments below!