So now that you've decided you want to pursue therapy, how do you go about finding a therapist? (Today’s blog is Part 2 in a 3-Part series regarding starting therapy. Part 1 focused on questions to ask yourself or situations that might make you want to consider therapy. Part 2 will address ways to find a therapist to work with, and Part 3 will focus on what to expect in your initial therapy appointment. Click here if you missed Part 1 to read it and catch up!)
We think the therapeutic relationship between therapist and client is a very important factor in how the client progresses in therapy. If the client feels self-conscious, or as if the therapist is judgmental, he/she might not open up and share completely and honestly. We tell our clients that working with a therapist is just like any other relationship-it may take time to develop and that is completely normal. There are some people you will naturally get along better with, some that you get along better with after you know each other a little more, and some that you won’t “click” with or feel comfortable with.
As with anything else, word of mouth referrals are always a good way to find out about local therapists. If you know someone who has been in therapy, ask them what they liked or didn't like about their therapist, or their experience in therapy. Ask if they'd go back to that therapist, and if not, why. You ask your friends for a recommendation for a roofer, dentist, or pediatrician, so why not for a therapist too?
Another great place to find a good therapist is to ask your primary care doctor for a referral. Many doctors know therapists in the area, and are happy to provide contact information for local therapists. Your primary care doctor can also give you assessments to determine your level of anxiety or depression (for example), and can make referrals based on how you answer these questionnaires.
You can also call your insurance provider and ask for a list of therapists in your area. This way you know for sure that the therapist you contact works with your insurance, if you are planning to use it. Just realize that working through insurances dictates some elements of treatment, such as session length or frequency. Some insurances can filter down therapists in your area based on availability or treatment concerns to a few that most closely match what you are looking for. From this list, you can either google them to look around their website for more information, or call the therapists directly.
After you find a therapist to contact, feel free to ask for a free consult, whether in person or on the phone. (Not all therapist offer free consults, and how they do them will differ slightly.) A consultation offers the chance for both the therapist and potential client to determine if them working together would be a good fit. Regardless of if you are able to do a consult or not, if you can, speak with the therapist on the phone, just to ask any general questions you may have. By having a phone conversation, you will be able to pick up on their tone of voice, inflections, and displays of empathy. Ask yourself if your first impression is that the therapist is likable and someone you think you could grow to trust. If so, give it a try!
When you are on the phone with the potential therapist, here are some ideas of some questions to ask:
"How often do you meet with new clients?"
"Can you accommodate my scheduling needs?"
"Do you work with my insurance?"
"How have you worked with others with “X” issue before?"
Be honest with what it is you are struggling with or are looking for help to address, so you can best assess if this therapist is a good fit for you.
Another idea is to commit to 4-6 sessions before deciding if you think the therapeutic relationship will work for you. Typically in the first 1-3 sessions, you will be going over administrative things, and getting to know each other and your history, so give yourself a few sessions beyond that before evaluating if you want to proceed further.
Be sure to check back in 2 weeks for our final installment "What to expect in your initial appointment" in this 3-part series. Let us know if this post was helpful, or if you have other thoughts or questions!