It can be difficult enough admitting you need a therapist for yourself or your child. This is daunting enough. But then comes a part that some can also find difficult — finding the right therapist.
Will I have a rapport with him or her? What will it cost? Do I find a psychologist, marriage and family therapist, psychiatrist, family counselor or what? Don’t worry. The search, and the resulting relief when you have discussed your situation, will be worth the effort.
Narrow Down Your Requirements
If you have insurance, it’s a good idea to find out first what is covered so you do not start going to someone that you will have to pay for on your own.
Then, decide what you are looking for in mental health services. Do you want someone who specializes in marriage counseling? Someone who specializes in eating disorders or body image problems? What type of therapist do you need? Here are brief descriptions of some of the licensed professional out there:
- Psychiatrists: These are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses. They are the only ones licensed to prescribe drugs. (The other types of therapists will refer patients to a psychiatrist if they believe a prescription is warranted.)
- Psychologists: These are doctoral degree (PhD or PsyD) psychology experts who are trained in counseling and uncovering emotional or psychological problems. Many use cognitive behavioral therapy to help people identify and change perceptions of themselves and the world around them.
- Social Workers: These specialists provide social services in settings governed by managed care organizations. They provide empathy, counseling and active listing for patients discussing interpersonal problems. They try to enhance and maintain a person’s psychological and social.
- Licensed Professional Counselors. They are licensed or certified to diagnose and treat mental and emotional disorders. Based on the state, they usually have a master’s degree in counseling and will have completed required training hours. Counselors can talk with patients about numerous problems, including depression, substance abuse, stress management, self-esteem issues and family or relationship problems.
Also, decide if you have any other requirements. For example, some one discussing sexual issues may prefer someone of their own sex, or not. Someone with issues with a father may not want to open up to a therapist who seems fatherly, or could prefer that. This is a matter of admitting a preference.
There are also preferences people have for a type of therapy, such as cognitive versus psychodynamic. Personally, I’m not hot on this criterion unless you have tried something that did not work for you in the past.
Ways to Find a Therapist
Here are some tips to help in your quest:
- Ask People. Friends and family can often recommend someone. Ask someone you know who is or was in therapy if they would recommend who they saw or could ask their therapist for a referral for your situation.
- Use Resources at Work or School. Many employers have a confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP). These services provide emotional support and counseling for employees in privacy as part of the employee’s benefit package. Usually a counselor at the EAP will see a patient for a set number of sessions (no charge to you) and then refer you for continued care to a therapist in your insurance plan. School and universities have school counselors or nurses who know therapists in the area. Nowadays, many universities have their own mental health counseling centers to help students with transition, stress and anxiety, depression or other issues.
- Go Online. Psychology Today (PT) probably has one of the more comprehensive listings in the U.S. They contract with other sites, like WebMD, to provide their list to readers. A therapist listed on PT must prove they have an advanced degree in their area and a current license. Once you have some names, check them out online. See if they have a blog or a website. You might get a sense about them. Remember, however, many well-qualified therapists are not on the web.
- Contact your Doctor or Insurer. Ask your doctor or your health insurer’s customer service department. If they do their job right, they should be able to suggest therapists who participate on their panel (which means they have been vetted from here to eternity for all the right professional credentials) and who specialize in what you need.
- Don’t Limit Yourself Geographically. Don’t set limits on yourself by logistics. If you live in an area where it is difficult to find a mental health professional locally, use the telephone or Skype. Today, therapists worldwide provide on-line counseling.
Deciding if It Is a Good Fit
When you find a therapist, call and talk with him or her. Ask about their specialty, tell them your situation and ask about their experience with similar patients, and other pertinent questions like fees, insurance, ability to work appointments around your schedule, etc. Notice how you feel talking with the therapist and want to talk further (nervous is normal!).
On your first appointment, notice how you feel in that person’s presence. You might not decide right off if the therapist is for you. It may take a few visits to determine if you picked the right therapist. If you do decide that it isn’t a good match, you would likely be better off picking another therapist.
How to find the BEST Therapist for you – Psychology Today
How to Find a Therapist – Web MD
How to Choose a Psychologist – American Psychological Association