Finding a therapist who is a good fit for you can certainly be challenging. Finding someone you feel comfortable talking to and inviting into your life can be a sensitive and vulnerable process.
The Struggle Is Real!
There are a lot of logistics to consider for a therapeutic relationship to be sustainable over time. Finding someone you feel comfortable with, who has availability to see you, and whose practice aligns with your needs... not to mention reaching out to them during a difficult season of your life... I don't envy you the task!
The good news is that you only need one person to "click" with you, and you're set. I try to point people in the direction of tools and resources that can help in their search. Although it may take time and some trial and error, it will be worth it once you connect with someone who is a good fit for you.
It's All About Who You Know
One golden resource is a personal recommendation. If you have a friend or family member who can recommend a therapist to you, that's a great place to start. What works for your friend or family member may not necessarily be best for you, but it's worth a shot to try and see.
Your doctor may be able to recommend a therapist, too - perhaps one who accepts the same health insurance. If you're a college student, check out your school's counseling center, if available - they often offer free therapy to their students.
Therapist Search Engines
If you don't have a personal recommendation or need some other options, here are some search engines I commonly recommend:
- PsychologyToday.com has a therapist search engine, perhaps the most popularly used tool. Click "Find a Therapist" at the top of their website.
- Theravive.com is another website that provides profiles of therapists in your area.
- Online-Therapy.com is a flexible, affordable approach to accessing cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which is an evidence-based therapy approach for many mental health issues. The have free content as well as monthly subscription plans.
Tips for Reaching Out and Connecting
Therapists sometimes receive an overwhelming number of incoming requests for appointments--especially during times when people's stress levels are higher (for example, during the COVID-19 pandemic). Choosing a therapist is an important decision, and it can be scary to reach out, so here are some tips to help you be successful in your search:
- Goodness of Fit: This is key. Do as much background homework as you can about the person before contacting them. That saves you the time and energy of only reaching out to therapists who seem like a good fit for you. Do they seem like a person you'd be comfortable opening up to? Do they have expertise in areas you are struggling with? What is their level of education, training, and experience?
- Logistics: What days/times do you have available for therapy appointments? Are you looking for telepsychology (video sessions), in-person sessions, or a mix thereof? If you'll be traveling to their office, do you have time in your schedule to visit that location regularly?
- Affordability: What can you afford, either through your health insurance or paying out-of-pocket? If you'll be using your health insurance, it can help to call your health insurance beforehand and ask them:
- whether you have coverage for mental health
- what your deductible is and has it been met yet
- how many therapy sessions they cover per calendar year
- what their coverage amount is per therapy sessions
- and do they cover out-of-network providers?
- Reaching Out: Once you make a decision to reach out, pay attention to any information provided about how best to reach that therapist. For example, I tend to have more availability in my schedule to respond to e-mails rather than voicemails, so that's what the contact section on my website is setup for. Other therapists may prefer voicemails or text messages. Whatever way you reach out, try to communicate:
- what you are looking for (therapy? assessment?) and any specific questions you have about their practice
- what you learned online that led you to wonder if you'd be a good fit for working together
- whether you're reaching out on behalf of yourself or someone else (son, daughter, friend, etc.)
- if you're interested in scheduling a first appointment, let them know that's the reason you are reaching out
- respectfulness - be careful to avoid untitling or uncredentialing professionals; if the therapist has a doctorate (usually a PhD, PsyD, or MD after their name), default to referring to them as Dr. Lastname rather than Ms. or Mrs. Lastname; if they are more informal and prefer to be called by their first name, let them tell you that
- Connecting: It's totally okay to meet with a few therapists once before you decide who you'd like to work with. That is to your benefit so that you can find someone who's a good fit for you. It's also to the benefit of therapists so that they focus on working with the people they can serve best.
- Waiting Lists: When therapy is in-demand, therapists can sometimes have waiting lists. It's not a bad idea to place yourself on someone's waiting list if they seem like a potentially good fit for you. In the meantime, keep contacting other therapists. Later down the road, if that waiting list therapist contacts you, you have the choice to try them out or to say "Thanks for following up, but I've connected with another therapist who's a good fit for me."
Finding a therapist can be tough, but - remember that it's worth it in the end! Your own growth and transformation as a person are invaluable, and whoever you invite into that process is honored to be part of it with you.