Facebook status update: I just found out my husband is cheating on me! I need recommendations on a great marriage therapist. Go!
Facebook status update: Turns out I’m secretly addicted to pornography. Looking for a great therapist! TIA!
Facebook status update: My mother in law is driving me crazy! I need a good therapist to help me work through my anger! Help!
Although it seems we have no shame when it comes to social media, Facebook may not be your first choice when it comes to finding the right therapist. So how do you find someone great?
Here are 6 steps to choosing the right therapist.
- Ask friends/family for referrals. Maybe posting your personal drama on Facebook isn’t the most ideal way to find a therapist, but asking friends and family for referrals is a great place to start. Ask what they liked or didn’t like about their therapist to get some specific feedback. You can also get a list from your insurance company, or google therapists in your area.
- Look at their credentials/experience. Is this person licensed? (Did you know you can look up license numbers to see if there have been any complaints filed? Google the licensing department in your state to do a search.) Being licensed means their practice is regulated and they have received a certain amount of training and education. Does the therapist have specific training in a certain type of therapy? Do they have experience working with the issue you are seeking help for? There are many different license types and various levels of training, some who can prescribe medications and some who cannot. Google is your friend to help you figure out what they all mean and which would be the best fit for you.
- Figure out price range/insurance. Many therapists take insurance, but many do not. If you want to find someone who accepts your insurance, getting a list from your insurance company might be a good place to start. Often, if a therapist is cash only, you can pay cash at the time of your session, get an invoice, and then submit that invoice to your insurance as an out of network provider. Many insurance companies will pay partial fees this way. Check with your insurance company first to be sure. Some therapists offer a sliding scale fee, which means they will have you fill out financial information and charge you based on your income. Many therapists do a certain amount of pro bono work each year as well. You can also look into clinics that hire therapists in training, like a university clinic. There you will receive therapy from students or therapists who are not fully licensed, but they will be closely supervised by a licensed therapist, and their fees are typically lower. If you need financial assistance you may be able to ask your ecclesiastical leader to help subsidize the cost of therapy. They may pay for all or part of a therapist’s fee. Keep in mind, if a Bishop or other ecclesiastical leader is paying for or subsidizing the cost of therapy, you will be required to sign a release so that the therapist can communicate with him/her about general things pertaining to your treatment (length of time, whether you are consistently showing up, progress made, etc…).
- Choose someone you feel connected to. The research is clear that the best predictor of whether therapy is successful or not is the strength of the therapeutic alliance. In other words, how connected you feel to your therapist determines in large part whether you consider therapy helpful or not. No matter how good their bio is or what their credentials are, if you do not feel connected to your therapist their ability to help you is lessened. Keep in mind that it may take a session or two to fully settle into feeling comfortable–therapy can be awkward at first! Make sure you’ve given enough time to really decide whether you feel the connection is there. Think about your preferences as you are searching for the right fit–do you prefer a male or female? Older or younger? Red head? Bald? Specific religion or not? It’s ok to shop around until you find someone that you feel comfortable and connected to.
- Choose someone who challenges you. While it’s important to find a therapist that you can trust and feel comfortable with, it is equally important to find someone who isn’t worried about you always being comfortable. Confusing? Let me explain. Therapy is meant to identify mindsets or behaviors that are contributing to challenges in your life, and then to help shift those mindsets or behaviors. Shifting and changing and building are uncomfortable. Your therapist should be willing to push you (in an appropriate way) to see patterns and thought processes that could be tweaked a bit. And just like building muscle, it might be a tad (or more than a tad) uncomfortable. You are not paying your therapist to nod mindlessly and agree with everything you say. You’ve got friends (or ice cream) for that.
- Don’t let a bad experience stop you from trying again. In therapy there are countless personalities, skills, licenses, experience, and ways of viewing change. Every therapist has a unique skillset and background, and what works for one client might not work for the next. If you have had a poor experience in therapy, please, please, please try again! If whoever you saw just isn’t the right fit, please be courageous enough to try again with someone else. So many people have one bad experience and then decide that therapy isn’t for them. Just like it might take a few tries to find the hairstylist or massage therapist or chiropractor that just gets you, so it might take a few tries with different therapists. Be an advocate for your own mental health, and keep looking until you find the therapist you need.
Finding the right therapist can be a daunting task, but I promise it is worth the extra work to find the yin to your yang. Any other tips you have for finding the right therapist that I might have missed? I’d love to hear them!