Following up on my post at the beginning of the month on the unexpected benefits of therapy, let’s talk now about how to find a therapist. Though the process can seem SUPER overwhelming, don’t get discouraged. It was definitely easier than finding a boyfriend, if that makes anyone feel better!
I took two approaches to find a therapist, but only really found success with the second one. As the first one was the way that it was told to me by a doctor, I thought I’d include it anyway just in case.
BUT, before you go a-searchin’, there are some things you need to do:
Decide what are important qualifications for you. For example, my qualifications were pretty simple. As I don’t have a car, location was a major key for me. I wanted someone close to where I lived so it didn’t make going to see them that much harder. I also knew I wanted a woman, someone who specialized in anxiety, and who was relatively young. Another important factor was needing them to be able to work with a sliding pay scale, as the fate of my insurance coverage would be fluctuating in the future.
When looking for someone, here are a few helpful things to keep in mind:
- Specialty/Experience in specific mental ailments (ie: depression, anxiety, sexuality, trauma, etc.)
- Insurance/pay schedule
- Appointment availability
- Style or theory of counseling, ie- Are you a big jokester? Do you want someone with a sense of humor? An optimist? Do you want someone to take you very seriously? These types of styles are important, as they’ll affect your comfort level and ability to open up to them.
- TYPE of therapist– there are many types of counselors, and many different certifications of what we probably all lump together as “psychologists”. Though most will help with the average talk-therapy, you may want someone who has a different specialty. Don’t hesitate to do a little research if you are unsure of exactly what you are looking for.
Check your insurance. I checked mine online, but you can also just call your provider and ask about your coverage. Thankfully, my current health insurance covers mental health very well, so that was a huge load off my mind. If you are without insurance, or don’t have insurance that covers mental health, make sure you take that into account when looking for someone. I knew that I will be switching jobs in August/September, or possibly even going without a job for a short period of time this fall, so having someone who accepted many insurances, or worked on a sliding pay scale (relative to your income!) if I lost insurance was a huge bonus. Your insurance may have certain restrictions, or not cover mental health care at all, so be sure to know this before looking for people!
Finding a Therapist Approach 1) Referral from my Primary Care Physician
My general doctor issued me a referral, and gave me a list of therapists that were in-network with my primary care office. I sorted them by location, then by gender, and started calling places that were recommended. Honestly, I got a lot of not-so-nice responses from some places, some crazy long wait times for my first appointment, and some really staggering prices for sessions that scared me off immediately. I think I made about six calls before I gave up and decided the process was hopeless. This was not exactly the most encouraging way to do it, in my opinion.
Plus, making me CALL THEM was not an ideal situation— anyone else out there with anxiety can probably agree with me on that one.
Finding a Therapist Approach 2) Using PsycologyToday.Com
A friend who is in the mental health field suggested I use PsycologyToday.com‘s “Find A Therapist” feature. Not only could I basically plug in exactly what my specifications were like creating a search filter, but it had an EMAIL option. I picked four counselors that met my specifications, and sent them all an email:
Hello, my name is Kelsey and I am looking for a therapist to help with anxiety. Are you accepting new patients? I have a referral from my primary care physician if you need it, and Cigna health insurance. I’d love to book a preliminary appointment if you have any open availability. Thanks!
I received 2 responses from therapists with open availability, and two that were not accepting patients at that time. I booked a free consultation the same week with one, and told the other I would get back to her if I wanted to book an appointment. I went to my first appointment with no idea what to think.
Why I Chose My Therapist:
Now that I found someone to talk to, I had to decide if I thought she was the right person to work with. After our 1-hour consultation, I knew I wanted to keep seeing her because I immediately felt very comfortable and welcomed by her. It was a gut-feeling thing more than anything else. She made me feel as relaxed as I possibly could in a situation like that but did it without making me feel pressured to feel relaxed.
After two more sessions, I knew I had made the right choice and wanted to keep seeing her because she was very good at taking the lead of a conversation when I needed her too, or letting me control the session when I wanted to. The conversation never lulled, and every single moment felt productive– which was huge to me. It also helped greatly that she laughed at my stupid jokes, which happened a lot because I make bad jokes when I’m uncomfortable.
Finding the right fit will feel different for everyone, so my biggest piece of advice is simple: just go with your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, then try someone else. And there is no shame in telling someone you try out that it doesn’t feel like a good fit– if they are a professional, they will completely understand! It may take time, but it is soooo worth it in the end to have someone you can speak candidly with.
Any questions? Do you see a therapist yourself and have other tips to offer about finding one? Put your recommendations in the comments!