Mental Illness

So You’ve Decided You Want To Go To Therapy – Part 2, Finding a Therapist

Last week I covered the basics of types of therapy and therapists.  So maybe you’ve figured out what might be best for you, or at least you feel a little more informed, and you want to pick a therapist.  But holy crap! You look at your insurance list and there are 150 names within a 10-mile radius of you and you have no information to go on.  What do you do?  Well, for starters, I would recommend against picking someone based off your insurance list.  Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but if possible, get a recommendation from a friend who you trust.  I’ve seen people on the other LadyBlog requesting therapist recommendations in their town, and that’s certainly a forum thread we could start here if there’s interest.  I am a firm believer in word-of-mouth recommendations for therapists.  Your friend can tell you what they like and don’t like about their therapist and that’s information that you’re not going to get from a list of names.

But since getting a few names from friends isn’t always an option (or their therapist doesn’t accept your insurance), the next best would be to get a recommendation from your doctor.  To be honest, I have only been hit or miss with therapy recommendations from doctors.  Most insurance providers require a PCP referral for a psychiatrist, but not usually for a psychologist or social worker.  I would encourage you to ask for more than one name so that you have some options.  After you have a list of names, google them.  Most therapists have a webpage now and that will give you an idea of what they feel their specialization are and they should provide a little outline of how they like to work.  Pick one that feels right to you and set up an initial appointment.

Bill Murrary Screen CapWhen I moved to a new city for graduate school I was at a loss for how to find a good therapist.  I didn’t like the clinic my school referred me to, but I didn’t know how to find a better one.  I was able to use a connection I had to a woman who had been a social worker in my city and knew some people to contact and she set me up with a really great therapist.  This can take some work, which can be difficult if you have depression or anxiety that is impeding your functioning.  If you have any support system at all, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  If you’re at a point where I was, it can feel daunting and you might want to give up on your search for a therapist. But if you really think therapy is right for you, it’s worth it to put in the work to find a good one.

Finally, don’t be afraid to try out different therapists if the first one doesn’t click for you.  I have seen so many people waste time on therapists they don’t like or don’t feel are helping.  It’s your mental health and therapy is a gift you’re giving to yourself to Live Your Best Life, to steal from Oprah.  Don’t compromise on this one!

Any more questions or tips about finding a therapist? Let me know in the comments!  Next week I’ll cover what a typical first session might look like.

12 replies on “So You’ve Decided You Want To Go To Therapy – Part 2, Finding a Therapist”

This is helpful. My previous method has been to call at 9 PM and listen to everyone’s voicemails to pick who sounded friendliest. It landed me in the office of a very intellectual pHD who loved Dungeons and Dragons, which was very sweet, but we didn’t really ever get around to talking about my problems.

I know this may not be applicable to all readers, but if you have access to an Employee and Family Assistance program, speaking to them is an excellent first step in finding a therapist. All of the intake staff are highly trained and there job is to listen to what you are saying and match you with the best possible fit. I used to work for one of these programs as an intake worker and we knew all the hundreds of counsellors in our systems by name and had a pretty good sense of their personalities and approaches so by and large we were able to help make good matches. Friend and family references are extremely important but the people in your life may need a different type of therapy approach from you and therapists have different levels of familiarity with different subjects so the same person who may be a great help for your friend’s anxiety may not be the best fit for your bipolar disorder so it can be extremely helpful to seek guidance from a knowledgeable third party who is not there to push a particular person on you.

Oh yes, it is so important to remember that if you don’t like a therapist, you’re not stuck with them. The most important thing about therapy is being comfortable/able to open up to your therapist, so don’t feel bad if you have to see two or three people before you find one you like.

I am new and I have a question! I live in a country other than my own and although I can somewhat speak the language, I am still learning plus I don’t have much time during normal “office” hours since I have a fairly active day. Because of these two reasons I’ve been considering online therapy. I am completely clueless about therapy and I am even more clueless about online therapy. Is it as good as in person therapy? Is there a specific way to pick from the humongous list of online therapists if no one around you has gone to any online therapist? Should I just give up the whole online thing and try and find a therapist with a good dominion of English where I live?

Oh online therapy! I tried to sign up to be an online therapist and then for some reason it never validated my credentials and I forgot about it.
You could definitely check it out. I know from my own experience trying to sign up for LivePerson, that they do verify your credentials and license so you at least know you’re getting a real therapist.
As far as picking someone,they all have bios and you can sort them by most popular. So I would scroll through some of the popular ones, find one that has a price that seems reasonable, and check it out.

When I was in the throes of deep depression a good friend ordered me to “Pick one, make an appointment right away! Get stable FIRST, then you can decide whether stay or move on.” She was DEAD right. Get help right away, don’t let mental illness continue to suffocate you.

I’ve also searched group therapy listings online and in local papers to get a feel for doctors who were “out there”.

Don’t just ask your doctors, ask your doctors’ nurses. They are in the know.

Before talking to the therapist and making final selection decisions–because my experience has been they always answered, yes I can treat you–get a handle on what you want to say. Make a short list of what’s troubling you.

It’s very tricky assessing when you are “done” or not a good fit with your therapist. Luci, would you be able to write a follow up post on that, giving tips? I struggled too long about keeping my son’s therapists. I stink at “breaking up” with therapists.

It’s my personal experience as a patient and relative of many health care professionals nurses have the best info. They have intimate contact with the patients. Doctors are focused on high priority matters, but nurses are geared toward details and interpersonal matters.

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