Life has a tendency to throw us all curveballs every now and again. Maybe you're tired all the time and struggling with motivation. Maybe you’ve been trying to cut back on drinking and finding it difficult to. Maybe, for the most part, things are going pretty well in your life but you and your partner are going through a rough patch and you could use a little guidance on how to work through it.
Whatever the reason, big or small, you’ve decided that it’s time to see a therapist. But where do you begin? Perhaps you’ve gone to a few therapists in the past but none of them have worked for you, or maybe this is your first time and you have no idea where to start. Following are some tips to help in your search.
You're in Charge
First and foremost, remember this is about you and your mental health. This means you’re in charge and you are looking to hire someone to provide a service for you. So, keep in mind, you don’t need to settle on seeing the first therapist you hear about or find. Think of it this way, you’re not likely to buy the first car you see without comparing other options. Similarly, it's okay to "shop around" to find the best therapist for you.
Your Needs are Important
Consider what your needs are in a therapist. Perhaps you want a therapist who understands BIPOC or LGBTQ+ identities or lived experiences. Is it important to you to speak with a therapist who understands your spiritual beliefs? Do you have a preference to see a therapist in person or on video? Are you looking for a specific type of therapy, such as a professional who understands and works with trauma? When searching for a therapist, it is important that you locate someone you are comfortable with. Part of that comfort is knowing that it is okay to be clear and unapologetic about your needs.
"It is okay to be clear and unapologetic about your needs."
Do Your Research
Once you have an idea of what your needs are, it is time to do your research. See who’s in your area and what kind of services they provide. There are a number of ways to do this.
An old tried and true way is word of mouth. Do any friends or family have recommendations in the area? If you’re planning on using insurance, the insurance provider typically has a list of providers in your area. Then there are internet searches. There are a large number of hubs to search for this information. You can find just a few resources at the end of this blog.
Many of these therapy search engines, such as Psychology Today, allow you to filter what kind of therapist you’re looking for. You can narrow your search by location, gender, ethnicity, concerns (or “issues”), type of therapy, etc. Read the bios of therapists you’re interested in to get a sense of who they are and their background. Create a short list of therapists that you think sound like someone you’d be interested in speaking with and prepare to reach out to them.
Conduct a Brief Interview
Now that you have your list, reach out and request a brief consultation. Many therapists offer these for free or a low cost. Remember, you are in charge of finding someone who meets your needs, so in a sense, you are interviewing them for the job of “your therapist”. Having a consultation is also helpful as the therapist can let you know if they are able to meet your needs (e.g., Do they have experience working with LGBTQ+?).
We understand it may feel awkward interviewing your potential future therapist. You may be unsure of what questions to ask. Below are just a few examples of questions you can ask that may help to determine if the person is a good fit for you:
How much experience do you have working with [insert your concerns]?
What is your approach to therapy?
What can I expect from an initial session?
How long are therapy sessions?
Is in-person or telethearpy an option?
What is the scheduling process?
What are the fees for therapy?
Do you accept insurance? If so, what types of insurance do you accept?
What are the cancellation and late arrival policies?
What happens if we start sessions but I begin to have concerns or feel that this is not a good fit?
As you are conducting your interview, try to be aware of how you feel. Does the interaction feel like a positive one for you? Having concerns or not "feeling the vibe" during the consultation? It's okay to take time, think about it, and go with your gut if it does not feel right. An important part of a successful therapy experience is being able to have a positive relationship between the therapist and the client. You will be sharing some pretty vulnerable aspects of your life and if you don’t feel comfortable with this person and don’t trust them, how are you going to be able to talk openly and make any progress on the reasons you came to therapy? So it's okay to take your time to find your vibe.
Don't Give Up
Let’s say you've done all of the steps above. You "hire" your therapist, and then realize that you don’t really vibe with them. That’s ok! This doesn’t mean therapy is not for you. Many people (not all) do not find their vibe the first go-around. Sometimes you have to keep searching. But whatever you do, don't give up. This is about you. This is for you. You've made a pretty important decision to begin therapy and it is important that you obtain the help that you need and deserve.
One final note: I would like to put in the caveat that in the course of therapy, if your therapist is challenging or pushing you and this feels uncomfortable, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you've chosen the wrong therapist. It is important that you communicate your feelings of discomfort with your therapist. Some therapists therapeutically challenge or push to help move you toward your goals. However, if upon expressing your concerns you do not feel heard, then it may be time to find a new vibe (read: new therapist). If it helps, you may even consider adding this to your initial interview questions. For instance: "If I feel uncomfortable during therapy, how do you prefer we address this?".
Growth and change can involve some discomfort to a degree. For example, starting a new health regimen, such as clean eating, can be uncomfortable. However, with support, if you can work through it, you can eventually you see results.
This is Your Journey to You
Your therapy journey is about you! You are the expert on you, and you deserve what works best for you. Your reasons for looking for a therapist and what works best for you are important, so don't settle - stay the course - and find your vibe!
We here at Hope & Serenity wish you all the best on your therapeutic journey and we are here to help in whatever way we can.
Below are just a few therapy resources that may help as you begin your search:
Openpathcollective.org (For people without insurance)