Finding the right therapist for you is extremely important. This is a person that you will be spending dedicated, prolonged time with, speaking about subjects that are vulnerable. Therapy is most effective when you are able to establish trust and you can feel confident to bring anything to the table without judgement.
Unfortunately, many people feel like finding this right fit can feel like finding a needle in a haystack. There are so many therapists with such a wide variety of specialties, degrees, trainings, certifications, levels of experience and personalities. Add on top of that the logistics of finding a person that takes your specific insurance or has a rate you can afford. Someone who doesn’t have a lengthy waitlist, and has availability that meets your needs. I want to offer some hope and five practical tips for finding your fit.
Have an idea of what you are looking for
Write down a wish list of what you are looking for in a therapist. For example: is it important to you what gender they are? Do you have a specific issue you are wanting to focus on? If so, you might want to look for someone who has training or experience in that specific thing. Do you want faith-based therapy? A pastoral counselor can offer biblical guidance, however they are not licensed in mental health and may play a dual role in your life if they interact with you or your family in the church setting as well.
Ask people you trust for input
If you have the ability to get a personal recommendation from a trusted person who knows you well, this is the best place to start. It can even be really helpful to enlist a friend in doing the search process with you to take some of the pressure off.
You can find out a lot on the internet
Websites like psychologytoday.com offer the ability to search for a therapist in your area and filter for things such as insurance accepted, specialties, and ability to do virtual therapy. There is also a short personal statement about each provider that allows you to get a taste for who they are. I often recommend using this as a starting point to find a few names and then exploring each persons’ website where you can get more information on who they are. Some even have social media accounts where you can get a clear picture of their personality and mindset.
Expand your search
One positive thing that has come out of the Covid-19 pandemic is the access to telemedicine. In the past there were many restrictions on telemedicine, but today, most therapists offer virtual therapy as an option . Additionally, the platforms used to do virtual therapy are highly regulated and HIPPA complaint. Therapists are licensed in their state (and some are licensed in multiple states.) This can allow you to expand your search significantly and increase your chances of finding someone that meets all of your needs.
Ask for a consultation
Once you narrow down your search, write a few questions down that you would prefer to have answered before starting services and then ask the providers for a 15 minute phone consultation. Most providers will agree to this because we also want to make sure we have a general understanding of your needs and feel confident that we are equipped to help you before taking you on as a client.
As a mental health therapist, I often hear about negative experiences in past therapy, or I am told that my client didn’t feel like they “clicked” with a previous therapist. While it breaks my heart to hear about these experiences, I am always so proud of the client for being in my office anyway- trying again. I also recognize that I am a unique human with a specific set of skills, trainings, beliefs and personality traits, and for this reason I may also not be a great fit for everyone who walks through my door. I always try my best to connect and build trust with each client, but I also encourage them to check in with me if they think they are needing something else from me, or if I can assist them in finding someone they feel better suited to. It is okay to leave your therapist if you are not feeling like it is the right fit. A good therapist will encourage you to do so and will not have hurt feelings if this is situation. Life is messy and being a human is hard. You deserve to give yourself space and time to grasp joy more fully and release burdens holding you back.