I want to start this post by saying if you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 911. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional, therapist, or doctor. I am a mental health advocate sharing what I have learned from my own experience in order to help others looking to find the right therapist. The thoughts, opinions, and experiences shared in this post are my own.
How to Find the Right Therapist for You
Admitting that you want to see a therapist can be very difficult. I know that I was terrified to call a therapist and make an appointment for the first time. When I left her a voicemail, I remember I said I wanted to make a appointment for anxiety, and as I said the word “anxiety”, my voice cracked. I was terrified to admit that I even had anxiety.
Looking back, I know this was because of the big stigma that still exists surrounding mental illness. Now, I feel very comfortable and confident talking about my anxiety and mental health in general, but it took years for me to get to this point. The truth is there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I believe talking about going to a therapist should be no different than going to see the dentist, or any other type of doctor for that matter.
After I finally admitted to myself that I needed to see a therapist, I moved on to the next hurdle – how to find the right therapist for me? At the time, I was living in New Jersey. I didn’t have any friends or family in therapy (that I knew of), and I was way too afraid to ask anyone about it, so I did a lot of research and found some helpful tactics that helped me to find an amazing therapist that literally helped me to change my life.
Once I moved to Pittsburgh, I used the same process and was able to find some really great therapists that I clicked with and that have really helped me to grow!
Here are my Top Tips to Find the Right Therapist for You
1. Check Your Insurance
The first step to finding a therapist is to check your insurance to see what your coverage is. Sometimes coverage can be a bit different for mental health than it is for physical health. How much will insurance cover? Is there a co-pay? How much will you have to pay out of pocket?
I recommend calling the insurance company and asking about it. You can usually also do a search through your insurance’s website for qualified therapists in your area that are covered by your insurance. This will give you a list of therapists that you can choose from.
Don’t have insurance? Therapists are sometimes willing to negotiate prices if you don’t have insurance or have some sort of financial need. If that applies to you, I recommend asking the therapist about it when you reach out to them.
2. Research Reputable Therapists in your Area
Next, you’ll want to take that initial list, and do a bit of research. One of my favorite websites to search for and research therapists is Psychologytoday.com. You’re able to search for therapists by zip code or neighborhood. You can read about their specialities, their education and certifications, their client focus and treatment approach. You can also view their website if they have one.
3. Look Specifically for a Therapist that Specializes in Your Condition
Each therapist typically has a certain area or a few areas that they specialize. This may be an area they have specific education for, or it may be the area that they have the most experience with. I recommend that you choose a therapist that specializes in your condition. Some examples of specialties could be anxiety, depression, stress, grief, self esteem, addiction, coping skills, trauma, life transitions, etc.
If you’re not sure exactly what your condition is, you can always make an appointment with someone who has general experience and they can help you figure it out and give you an official diagnosis.
4. Ask for Recommendations
Another helpful way to find the right therapist for you is to ask for recommendations. This one can be tricky. It may be hard to know who to ask for recommendations since many people don’t talk about going to see a therapist. You could ask trusted family or friends to see if they have any recommendations. You could also ask your PCP for recommendations as well.
I think recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt because what works for one person may not work for someone else. Everyone has different personalities, and while someone you know may really like working with a particular therapist, that person may not be right for you. Always keep that in mind when considering recommendations and referrals.
5. Try Out the Therapist
Once you’ve done all your research, found someone in network, and identified someone who seems like they would be a good match, it’s time to try out the therapist. This is where you go to your first appointment for your intake. The therapist will ask you a lot of questions and will also give you a summary of how they think you will best work together as well as their plan for treatment.
It’s really important to make sure you feel comfortable with the therapist. This is the person you are going to be telling some really personal details to and their job is to give you tools to help you feel better. If you do not feel like they are the right person to do that, move on! They will not be offended. I typically give a new therapist 2 tries. If I don’t feel like they’re a good match by appointment #2, I move on and try someone else.
If you have any other questions about how to find the right therapist for you, I am happy to talk to you privately. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.