You’re thinking about starting therapy, maybe for the first time ever, and aren’t sure where to begin. Perhaps you look on a therapist directory like TherapyDen, or you google “therapist in Philadelphia” or whatever city you live in, or “therapy for anxiety,” or whatever problem feels most pressing to you right now. The search results can feel overwhelming.
There are so many options out there. How do you know what will be the best one for you?
I’ve walked many friends, family members and clients through this process and have done it myself (yes, therapists go to therapy too!), which some say can feel a bit like blind dating. I don’t disagree. Given that the relationship “fit” is what will best determine whether or not therapy will be effective, how you feel in the presence of the person who you’ll be sharing your most vulnerable and raw truths with is super important!
You want to make sure that the therapist you choose “gets” you and has experience with your particular challenge or challenges.
Here are some tips for finding the best therapist for you:
Get clear on what you want
It’s OK to not be 100% sure what you want to get out of the therapy experience, but it is a good idea to ask yourself questions like:
-Why am I looking for therapy now? Or – what’s going on in my life or not working that I feel like I could use some help with?
-Who would I feel most comfortable with? Think gender, age, race, etc. It’s OK to be picky and want to work with someone who shares some of your lived experience.
-If therapy worked, how would things be different for you 3, 6, 12 months from now?
Getting curious about what it is you really desire can help distill a vague sense of “not ok-ess” into something more specific, as well as help you hone in on what kind of goals you’d like to address in therapy. These can translate into helpful google search keywords you can use to narrow down your search.
Do you have any friends or family with similar struggles as you who are open about going to therapy? Ask them for a referral! Even if you don’t want to see the same therapist they do, their therapist probably has a great referral network they can reach out to.
Another place to look are local businesses you’re already frequenting. Maybe your hairdresser knows a great therapist, or your primary care doctor has a list of referrals. Keep your eye open for business cards local therapists have left at your favorite coffee shops, yoga studios, record stores etc.
If you get a referral or find a therapist through an internet search who looks like they might be a good fit, take advantage of exploring what they’re sharing online. Reading through their website is a good place to start. Does what they have to say resonate with you?
Many therapists have social media accounts where you can get a better sense of who they are. Particularly if they share videos, it’s a good opportunity to see what it might be like to sit with this person during a therapy session.
Decide if you plan to use insurance benefits
Therapists are either “in-network,” meaning they directly take your insurance and you will likely pay a copay or deductible, or “out of network,” meaning you will pay their full fee. There are benefits to both. Using insurance means that you may pay less out of pocket, however the therapist is required to diagnose you and the insurance company may decide to limit the amount of sessions they cover per year. Going “out of network” means you will pay more out of pocket, but there are no time limitations on your care and there is more flexibility in addressing issues that may not be “diagnosable.”
Many out of network therapists offer something called a “superbill,” which is a document you can send to your insurance provider for possible reimbursement. I’ve compiled a list of questions I you can ask your insurance provider to find out if you might be covered can be found on my FAQ Page.
Take advantage of free consultation calls
Many therapists offer free consultation phone or video calls as a way for you to get a sense of what it would be like to work with them. You can often request a consultation call via a therapist’s website, or by emailing them.
During the consultation call, it’s a great time to share a little bit about yourself, particularly the reason(s) why you’re looking to start therapy, and to ask questions about the therapist and their practice.
Some good questions to ask might include:
-How have you worked with people with problems similar to mine?
-Do you expect clients to do any work in between sessions?
-How would you describe your style? (this is where you can find out if the therapist is going to be more active or passive in sessions, for example)
Know that you’re never “stuck”
Let’s say you go ahead and schedule that first session and realize that it isn’t the best fit for you. Your therapist will not be offended if you let them know that it’s not working out, and might even have a list of referrals of other therapists who may be more well-suited for your needs.
Found a therapist you’re excited to start working with? Great! Stay tuned for next week’s post on How To Get the Most Out of Therapy.