Finding the Right Therapist

Going to therapy is popular again. Not that it ever went out of style, but in today’s over saturated world, and with the rise of the self-care zeitgeist, it seems like more and more people are looking for someone to talk to. People also want quick fixes and for pain to go away. I want that, too, but it’s not that simple. And finding the right therapist is important for the treatment to really work. Here are a few key points to consider when trying to find a good match. 

Cost

The thing no one likes to talk about, and the first thing everyone asks. Most people want to use their insurance. Cool, I get that. A lot of therapists don’t accept insurance. Sometimes it’s because we don’t want to: the companies meddle in the work, they don’t reimburse well, and they create extra administrative work we don’t have the capacity for. Sometimes it’s because we can’t: the companies aren’t accepting new providers, only certain credentials are allowed, or again we don’t have the capacity to manage all the additional administrative work. 

That leads to providers coming up with their own fees that correlate with their values, their level of education, their additional training, their business expenses, and their personal cost of living. It’s not that we want to charge a lot, it’s because we have to. In most cases, we’re only seeing one person, in an hour’s time. 

All this to say, don’t shy away from a clinician who doesn’t accept insurance. Meet them first and learn about the fee structure. Think about what you can really afford. Consider the cost to be an investment in yourself and your healing. Not to sound all woo-woo, but few things lead to lasting change like therapy, and honestly, that’s kinda priceless. 

Time and Location

You want to come either before work or after work, preferably after in case you cry and your mascara runs. You also want to be seen either close by to where you live or work. Word! I feel you. Having to travel or open up your schedule can suck, especially if it’s every week. But trust me, if you find the right person, it’ll be well worth it. Don’t limit your search to certain zipcodes. Consider an alternative work day that is split up. One day a week that’s different might mix things up and keep life interesting. 

Referrals

Ask your friends or someone you trust and respect who’s in therapy that is also getting a lot out of it. There’s nothing like a good referral. But this next part is key. If you’re close friends and that person is still in therapy, don’t see the same therapist. See if their therapist has any recommendations – good therapists know other good therapists. Odds are you may want to talk about your friend at some point. Keep life simple for yourself and the therapist by limiting the conflicts of interest that could arise in seeing the same therapist as someone else with whom you’re close. This mainly applies to those living in larger cities where there’s many therapists. 

Approach 

Each therapist has their own style and school of thought that provides a framework for how they work. If they don’t, well, there’s your first red flag. Find out and ask about this. Hopefully they can explain things in a way that is relatable without a lot of jargon. Reflect on how their approach aligns with what you’re wanting to address. You don’t have to know theory or even exactly what’s bringing you in to get a sense of how well their ideas might match up with where you are. This also relates to your social location and identities. For example, will the therapist know how to address topics of race and sexuality? Will you be doing more explaining and defending of yourself? Therapists are there to meet your needs, not the other way around. Which leads to the last part.

Shop Around

If you don’t vibe with the first, second, or even third clinician you meet, feel free to keep looking. Therapy is a relationship. Just like dating or making friends, you don’t just settle for the first person you meet. Or maybe you do, and that’s something to talk about in therapy. You want to find someone who clicks with you, and who you trust. Be curious about what you like or don’t like. Was it their office decorations, or their brown socks with black shoes? Was it the questions they asked or how they asked them? Did they probe too much or not enough? Maybe you left intimidated by how daunting the work will be. Maybe you left thinking, you couldn’t wait to get out of there. Reflecting on these questions will help you match up well, but will also give you a lot of insight into what to work on. Could you get over the whole brown socks, black shoes if the therapist was really good, or is that a deal breaker? Trust yourself when choosing. You know more than you think.

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