If you are in search of a therapist, CONGRATULATIONS!! I applaud your bravery and courage in taking this monumental step of seeking help. It takes a lot to get to this step, and I want to help you avoid disappointment. I’m going to be honest, the process of finding a therapist is neither streamlined nor easy. I wish I can tell you that there is one place you can go to find out everything about your therapist that you would be interested in knowing, but even if there was, you might still have a poor experience if you don’t do some prior research first. The following is only my recommended way of finding a therapist, but there is really no wrong way. Follow your gut. If you have been referred to a specific therapist, then this whole process may be much easier for you. But for the rest of you, the first two things to consider are type of therapy you want and finances.
Type of Therapy
Do you want a more solution-focused approach to treatment, a brief approach, a direct approach where the therapist guides the conversation and intervention or a non-directive approach where you as the client drive therapy? Maybe you want someone whose approach is more cognitive behavioral (more directive) than the more traditional talk therapy (non-directive). Are you looking for a therapist that works with young children and is a play therapist or an couple’s therapist? perhaps you want a spiritually-inclined therapist? This part is important to have some understanding of so that when you get to the next steps you’ll be able to narrow down your list.
The next step is figuring out how you’re going to pay for the services. If you have insurance, you may find a list of in-network providers or you can submit an invoice of all sessions with an out-of-network therapist, and your insurance will give you a reimbursement of the fees. You would have to verify with your insurance if they will do this. If you are able to do this or pay privately, then evaluate what is affordable to you. Since consistent weekly sessions are recommended, take that into account too. Some therapists offer sliding scale fees, while others have flat rates. You can also find therapists at low fee clinics which often have sliding scales or really low fees (as low as $5). Typically, full fee for private practice clinicians averages $100- $150 per individual session, while couples and families may be charged higher fees (and if your therapist is an Intern, rates may be lower than for licensed therapists). If you are looking for a low fee or sliding scale clinic, then you can search online on government and county websites for resources/referrals, or you can ask your doctor, local school, or Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) for any references. Some churches also offer counseling services or have referrals to counseling centers.
Learn More About the Therapist
If you have insurance or can afford private pay, then do a little research on your own on websites such as www. psychologytoday.com, www.counselingcalifornia.com, www.healthgrades.com, and even Yelp to find therapists whose message, approach, payment structure, and location appeals to you. The reason why I suggest you do this before you look at the list of in-network providers is because it is difficult to know where to start when you are given a list of hundreds and thousands of names. There also isn’t a lot of information that comes with the list, and it isn’t updated by the therapists regularly, so information may be inaccurate. If no one you like from Psychology Today or Counseling California is in-network, then you can call those therapists and ask for sliding scale fee or some other discount. Another option is to search for names of therapists from your insurance provider list on Psychologys Today or Counseling California or to “google” them to find their websites. When you find therapists that you like, call them. Chances are you probably won’t have too many that you align with, and of those you do align with, some won’t return your call, will not take new clients, or no longer take your insurance.
Shop and Interview
When you speak to the ones that do return your call, pay attention to how you feel talking to them. Interview them, and tell them briefly why you are seeking therapy, ask them if they have worked with that before, what their approach is, whether they are taking new clients, and whether or not they take the form of payment you prefer. Please don’t take this call as a full session to go in-depth about all of your life’s struggles. Try and keep it under 10 minutes. After this step, you may narrow down to 2-4 different therapists who you want to hire as your own. Make an appointment with all of them. You’re still just “shopping” around for a good therapist so you don’t have to make a decision yet. After meeting with them, pick the ones that you feel you can trust and be open with, as well as the one that will challenge your beliefs, and continue meeting with them until you settle on one.
Disclaimer and Release
Please remember, although there are recommendations such as weekly sessions, you must do what is right for you and fits with your needs. It is not uncommon for people to meet on alternate weeks or once every two-three weeks or on as-needed basis. Therapy can be whatever you want it to be, so go with a therapist that aligns with you, or is at least willing to work with you to meet your needs.