Let’s acknowledge something – finding the right therapist isn’t fun or easy. After all, you’re trying to find someone that you can be comfortable enough with to share things that maybe you’ve never told another person. And just like therapy itself, this may not be the quickest process, but I promise it will be worth it when you find the right fit for you.
So here are some tips on how and where to find the right therapist for you.
Insurance or No Insurance?
The first thing to consider is if you want/need to use your insurance, or if you’re comfortable paying “out of pocket.” To learn more about the differences between in and out of network providers, you should read my other article, here, first.
Virtual or In-Person Sessions?
The COVID-19 pandemic made access to therapists pretty dang great. Think about your schedule, preference, and comfort with technology. If you’re not sure which one would be best for you, you should read my other article, here, before moving on.
Therapist’s Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Age, and Sexual Self-Identification
There are no right or wrong answers here; it all comes down to what makes you most comfortable in such a vulnerable setting. Some people want to talk to someone that’s the same sex, sometimes they prefer the opposite. Maybe you want to talk with someone that isn’t heterosexual, fantastic. But hey, if you prefer talking with someone that identifies as straight, that’s cool too.
Let me focus on age for a second though. Often times, parents are choosing a therapist for their kid. If that’s you, please choose a therapist that will be able to relate to them. In other words, choose someone that’s more relatable to them, then they are to you. And if you’re looking for yourself, there’s zero shame in wanting to work with a younger or older therapist based on your own preferences. If you want someone with more experience, great. If you want someone you don’t need to explain what TikTok is or how Snapchat works, that makes a lot of sense too.
Let me say this again – the primary thing that matters is you feeling comfortable with your therapist.
Level of Formal Education/Degree/Credentials
Here’s the thing, I literally have the highest level of education someone can have in my field, a Doctorate. It’s pretty neat and what allows me to call myself a “Psychologist” because in the state of Pennsylvania (and many others), with very few exceptions, you need to have a Doctorate in order to earn the title Psychologist. So, if the person you’re considering doesn’t have their doctorate (which is totally okay), they are likely calling themselves a “Counselor” or “Therapist”, both of which are true.
So, like I said, I have a Doctorate and I will be the first one to tell you that you do NOT need to only look for a psychologist if you’re considering going to therapy. Now, if you prefer to see a Doctorate level therapist, that’s great. But please, do not feel like you’re getting a lesser quality of care if you choose a master’s level therapist. Because I promise you, there are many master’s level therapists that are better than doctorate level therapists out there.
The Initial Phone Call/Responsiveness
This is something I feel very strongly about, and quite frankly, I can go on a rant about. So instead of a massive wall of text, let me try to break this down into a list of things for you to consider when making that initial contact. So, think to yourself, “Do they…”
- Answer the phone or return your voicemail?
- Make the time to speak with you over the phone to answer your questions?
- Can you speak with your treating therapist before your first appointment, or only a receptionist?
- Pressure you to schedule an appointment?
Chances are, most practices won’t offer a free in-person consultation (there are many legal and ethical reasons why) but they should take the time over the phone that you need to feel comfortable with this decision. How they treat you over the phone during that initial phone call is probably a good representation of what you can expect moving forward (e.g., ease of access in between sessions, etc.)
To Sum it Up
I wish there was some golden formula I could tell you to help you find a therapist; chances are, there will be some trial and error. However, the best thing you can do to help yourself is to 1) trust your gut and 2) understand that it’s okay if the first person you try doesn’t work out.