It is not a simple task to find a therapist.
The right therapist for you is one who makes you feel comfortable, heard and understood. How do you find such an individual? It takes a mixture of research and intuition — Information is important, but intuition is critical.
Begin by asking yourself what you would like in a therapist.
- Is gender important to you?
- Do you want a therapist trained in a specific healing method (e.g., Imago Relationship Therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)?
- If you are a gay or lesbian client, would you prefer a therapist experienced in working with your community?
Once you’ve assessed your own needs, it becomes easier to find a good fit for you. The number one mistake clients make is to call up their insurance provider and get two or three names, and then head off to the first person on the list. The therapeutic relationship is unique; your therapist will serve as container for some of your deepest emotions, greatest fears and most cherished desires.
It is up to you to determine whether the two of you “click” based on your personality, needs and circumstances.
Don’t be afraid to seek referrals from friends, family, and trusted colleagues who know you well. Also, check the reputable online referral services. These links provide information and referrals that may be of help. Please note this is not an endorsement of any of these services but simply assistance in doing your research.
- Good Therapy.Org
- Psychology Today
- Bay Area Imago (California-specific)
- Counseling California.com (California-specific)
Referrals are only the first step of the process. Once you’ve gotten a few names, do your research. Check out the therapist’s website and professional affiliations. After you’ve done your preliminary research, call the therapist and set up an initial consultation to see if the two of you are a good match. Some therapists have a free or reduced-fee initial consultation; if it is not clear whether your prospective therapist provides such a service, simply ask when you are setting up your appointment.
Nothing is as important as that first meeting with your prospective therapist, so be sure to prepare. Have your questions written down before the first meeting to ensure you don’t forget to ask anything important. As yourself how you feel in the presence of the therapist. Does he or she seem approachable and interested in your concerns? Do you feel comfortable in his or her presence.
Costs can be an important consideration for people who want to find a therapist. While long-term therapy requires some financial commitment, you can and should work with your therapist to manage costs. First, some therapists accept insurance, in which case you would only be responsible for your co-pay. But insurance companies often will pay for just a few sessions or they otherwise impose limits and restrictions. In recent years many therapists have moved away from accepting insurance in their practice. If you find a therapist you like who does not take your insurance—and you are experiencing economic hardship—ask if he or she has a sliding scale, which may allow you to pay out of pocket. If that is not possible, ask that therapist for a referral. We are always happy to help, and often we have a good sense of who might fit your needs.
Finally, remember there is more than one “right” therapist for you, so keep looking if things don’t work out with one particular therapist. It takes time to build the trust necessary to do the work, however, so commit to at least two or three sessions before deciding whether you are a good match.
I hope this information helps you find a therapist that is right for you.