KUDOS! You made a decision to get the help you need and that’s amazing.
However, searching for a therapist can quickly begin to feel extremely overwhelming. In an instant, there are all these questions that you have never considered but are required to have the answers to immediately: How much will this cost? How do I pay for therapy? How often do I want to have sessions? What type of person am I looking for? Which type of therapist suits my needs?
If you’re feeling a little (or a lot) lost in the search, I got you covered. I have collected 6 tips that I wish someone told me when I started looking for a therapist years ago that would have made the process so much easier (and way less stressful).
#1 Learn the Language
Let’s quickly cover some lingo, specifically in the type of licenses you will be seeing next to the therapist’s name. The 3 most common licenses you will see are LMFT (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist), psychologist, and psychiatrist. LMFT’s specialize in helping couples and families, but this is not to say that they cannot counsel for issues unrelated to this area. A psychologist and a psychiatrist are similar, however a psychiatrist is the only one of these three that can prescribe you medicine. They also aid in assessing and consulting patients on medication. However, that does not mean you have to narrow your search to only psychiatrists. If you decide on your mental health journey that you would like to try medication, an LMFT or a psychologist should be able to refer you to a psychiatrist that will evaluate which medications are best suited for your needs.
#2 Where to Start
First things first, where do you start searching? If you know specifically what you are looking for in a therapist, Google can be helpful. However, if you have absolutely no idea, Google can quickly turn into a second-guessing party with an endless amount of links to click on. If you fall in the latter category, it’s better to start by choosing one platform.
If you know that you are going to be using your insurance, the best place to start is your insurance’s website. Depending on your insurance, you can navigate to the Mental Health or Mental Wellness page and search for therapists in your area. Most therapists will have a small bio, a contact number or email, and an address for where their practice is located. The great thing about starting with your insurance network is that it allows you to immediately narrow your search to therapists that meet your most important criteria: they accept your insurance.
Psychology Today is another great option. Psychology Today allows you to narrow your search as much or as little as you want. Beyond insurance and location, you can search for a specific gender, age, religion, type of therapy, and more. Another plus is each person is listed with a photo.
After reading through a few profiles on either platform, select the ones you like, and give them a call or send them an email to set up an initial phone conversation or session!
#3 Test Run your Therapist
Trying out a therapist is like dating. You hit all the highlights on your first meeting, you start to get a feel for the connection on the second meeting, and decide if you want to continue or not on your third. Sometimes it doesn’t even take three meetings, and by the first you are ready to cut the time short and head home.
Just because you scheduled an initial get-to-know-me session with your therapist does not mean you need to feel obligated to continue with that person if you already know that the person is not the right match for you. Your time (and money) are too precious to waste with the wrong person. If you are unsure, schedule a second session or a third, but never ever feel like you are stuck to a therapist. Also, feel free to play the field! If you find a few therapists that you think you may like, schedule an initial session or phone call with each of them. More options means more opportunities to find the right therapist for you.
#4 There Are More Fish In the Sea
If you do not connect with the first, second, or ninth therapist, don’t sweat it! There are many, many, many therapists for you to meet. The great aspect of meeting different therapists is that you start to learn what you prefer and what you do not prefer, all of which will help your search in the future to bring you closer to the perfect match.
Also, your therapist may change throughout your mental health journey. I have had 5 therapists so far, all of which have helped me in a different aspect. Whether that be to overcome one of my biggest mental roadblocks or to show me what I was not looking for in a therapist, each served their own purpose.
#5 Don’t Be Afraid to Voice Your Opinion
One of the biggest mistakes I made in my mental health journey is not voicing my opinion to my therapist. Sometimes I would feel that what I had to say was dumb or could come across as being mean and demanding.
Let me clear this up right now, you are not being demanding by stating exactly what you need from your therapist. You need a step-by-step plan? Need options? Need a supporter? Hate certain words? Have triggers? Tell them! Your therapist is there to help you and you should feel nothing but comfortable in telling your therapist exactly what you think. If you do not feel comfortable with stating what’s on your mind, that may be a sign that the therapist is not the right one for you.
#6 Trust Your Gut
Not feeling the connection? Maybe this person isn’t the right one for you.
No longer feeling like you’re making progress even though you’ve voiced your concern about it to your therapist? It may be time to move on to another therapist.
There were many times throughout my years of therapy when I had this nagging feeling that was telling me something just didn’t feel right. Whether that was during the first meeting or after months of meeting the same therapist, something kept telling me that this therapist was not the right person for me. And 100% of the time, that gut feeling was correct.
While it can feel daunting (or exhausting) to realize you need to look for a new therapist because maybe you got comfortable or the person is still really nice, if something feels off, it probably is. If you feel you are not making progress, not feeling your best, not feeling right even after talking to your therapist about it—it’s time to trust your gut and consider moving on.
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed in the search, I hope that these 6 tips were able to give you some guidance and support in your mental health journey. I admire you for the steps you are taking for your own well-being and am sending you so much love.
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