Finding a Therapist: Some Tips to Help You Get Started
If you have made the brave decision to begin the process of therapy, one of the hardest parts of the process can be finding a therapist/counselor who is a good fit for you and your family/partner. One of the main predictors of success in therapy is the relationship between the client and therapist, so you want to find a therapist who you feel comfortable with and who meets your needs as a client. Below are some tips to help you get started in finding the right one.
Make a list of what you are looking for.
A great place to start is to make a list of things you would like to see in the therapist you choose to work with. If you will be attending therapy with anyone else, such as family members or a partner/spouse, make sure to get their input as well. Some things to think about in terms of preference include gender, location, specialty areas, education, length of time practicing, model of therapy practiced, and type of therapy (individual, couple, family, or group).
With the internet, there are a wide variety of ways to find therapists in your area and learn about the work they do. One of the best places to look is the Psychology Today website (www.psychologytoday.com/us). This is a central location where many therapists sign up to put their profiles up, and potential clients can search locally to see who the available therapists are in their area. Many profile pages will give information about specific issues the therapist works with, and will often provide a link to their website so you can learn more about them. You can also call/email therapists through this site. A similar option is the Open Path Psychotherapy Collective website (https://openpathcollective.org/). This website is similar to Psychology Today, but its goal is to provide lower cost options of therapists in your area.
It can also be helpful to ask friends/family if they know of any good therapists in the area. Going to therapy is a very personal experience, and knowing that someone you trust has suggested someone can help it feel a little less scary. Asking your physician for a referral can also be helpful. Many physicians collaborate with therapists in the area and have a list of go-to referrals who they trust.
Finally, if you are wanting to use your insurance to pay for therapy, a good place to start is by calling your insurance company to get a list of local therapists who are in network with them.
If paying out-of-pocket for a therapist is not an option for you currently, there are lower-cost options out there if you know where to look. One place to search is for training clinics (usually at local universities/colleges). These clinics have intern therapists (usually master’s or doctoral level therapists-in-training) conducting the therapy as part of their clinical internship. These interns are receiving continual supervision by licensed professionals as they are learning, and so they are getting constant feedback on their work. These clinics are generally free, low-cost, or operate on a sliding scale (fee is based on your income/number of people living in your home). These types of clinics may require your sessions to be recorded for supervision/educational purposes, though, so that is something to consider.
Another tip is to ask about sliding scale options when you are looking around - many therapists and agencies offer this option to their clients.
What do the different letters mean after their names?
As you search for therapists, you will probably notice a wide variety of letters after their names, which indicate which type of license they have. There are many different ones out there, but two of the most popular ones you might see are: LMFT (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist; specially trained to work with relationships, including couples and families, and can also see individuals and groups), and LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor; generally work more with individuals and groups, but some also see couples and families).
Take advantage of free phone consults.
Some therapists offer a free phone consult to speak with you and see if they are a good fit for what you need. Some will even do this consult in person. Have a list of questions ready to ask the therapist to see if they fit your needs, as well as any questions you may have about the therapy process, including what their specific brand of therapy looks like.
Even if you reach out to a therapist who for whatever reason ends up not being a fit, they can usually give you some names of other therapists in the area who would fit your needs and who they trust their clinical work.