How To Find The Right Therapist
First, start by taking a deep breath; the search for a therapist can be an intimidating process!
Deciding who to open up to about the most vulnerable details of your life can feel overwhelming. What questions do you ask? How do you know when you’ve found the right fit? What do you do if a therapist isn’t the right fit?
One of the most important things to remember is that you are the expert on you, and you are in control through the therapeutic process, even after you’ve found a therapist. If a therapist doesn’t feel like the right fit for you, therapy will not be effective. Even more important than the treatment modality or interventions a therapist is using, is the rapport you and your therapist will build together. Every therapist will not be the right fit for every client. Every human being is unique, and deserves a therapist who uniquely fits their needs.
Starting your Search
There are multiple ways to begin your search for a therapist; however, before doing this, it is important to consider who you might feel most comfortable with. Do you prefer a therapist of a particular gender identity? A therapist who is around your age, or older, or younger? Do you prefer a therapist who holds a similar spiritual/religious belief system to you? Most therapists will not share a lot of personal information (this process is about you!) however, most of the time you can find basic information about a therapist from their biographies.
Something else to ask yourself when beginning the search for a therapist is will your therapy be covered by insurance or will you be paying privately. Not all insurances cover behavioral health services, and not all therapists are in network with insurance. If you are using insurance it can lower the cost, however, it can also lessen the amount of clinicians you have to choose from. If you are planning to pay out of pocket, services tend to be more expensive but can give more freedom in choosing a therapist. Some therapists also offer sliding scale services which can provide lower cost therapy for lower incomes.
Some places to begin your search:
Connecting with Therapists
Once you’ve conducted your search and have compiled a list of potential therapists, it is important to come up with a list of questions. Most therapists offer a free 15-20 minute phone consultation; this is a good way to begin the decision-making process. As you are beginning to connect with the different therapists, it is important to know that you are interviewing the therapist, not the other way around. Beginning therapy is your process, and you are the expert on you, asking questions will help you decide if someone feels like the right fit for you.
This list is not exhaustive of every question that should or could be asked. Ask yourself if there is anything that is important for you to know from a potential therapist. In addition to questions you may ask, it is also important to check in with yourself following a consultation. Did you feel listened to and heard, was your gut telling you it felt off/felt right, did the therapist have a background and training with your specific needs, were they patient, kind, and willing to answer your questions, do they offer times that fit your schedule?
Once you have completed consultation phone calls, it is time to make your decision. Sometimes this may be that no therapist felt right, and going back to the drawing board; but hopefully it means you found a therapist who you want to work with! Remember, a 15 minute phone call gives you an idea of what it would be like to work with a particular therapist, but it takes more time than that initial phone call to build trust and rapport.
Give yourself time when beginning therapy, maybe even express your fears and anxieties to your therapist and be vocal in how you feel the process is going. Your therapist will help you identify treatment goals in the first few sessions, and this is a great opportunity to express your needs and expectations. Allow yourself to be open, while honoring your process in leaning into vulnerability, there is no timeline, therapy goes at your pace!
If you ultimately decide that your therapist isn’t the right fit, be direct in communicating this. It is part of a therapist’s ethical code to provide referrals when a client therapist relationship isn’t working. Therapists are there to serve your needs, not the other way around. Again, not every therapist is the right fit for every client, and you deserve the opportunity to find the therapist that is right for you!