One of the questions I ask clients during our first therapy session is "When did you decide you wanted to see a therapist?" Some decided earlier that week, and some people decided they wanted to see a therapist years ago, but it just took time.
The process of finding a therapist can be quite overwhelming, particularly if it's the person's first time going to therapy. People are often highly distressed by the time they are looking for a therapist, with patience and energy being at an all-time low.
One thing you should know if you are considering looking for a therapist: therapy is work, and the work begins with your search for the right therapist. Below are five steps to help you navigate the search process so that you can find a therapist that is best equipped to help you address your specific concerns.
1) Reflect On Your Specific Reasons For Seeking Out A Therapist
Are you experiencing depression or anxiety? Has there been an affair in your relationship and you are trying to figure out how to recover from this? Are you having conflict with your children? Is there an addiction that is plaguing the family? Are you feeling aimless and not sure how to move forward in your career? Has chronic fighting replaced the love and affection in your relationship with your partner, and you're unsure how to find your way back?
You could be seeking a therapist for any number of reasons, but not every therapist works with every concern people are wanting to address. Make it a priority to search for a therapist who specializes in your particular concerns. They will be better trained, have more experience, and you will be setting yourself up to have the best opportunity to meet your goals.
2) Evaluate The Various Options You Have For Getting Names of Potential Therapists
Now that you've clarified what you'd like to address and that you're looking for someone who specializes in those issues, you've got several options for getting names of potential therapists.
- Ask for references from the people you already have access to - family, friends, faith communities, your general physician, etc. If you're comfortable asking, these are some of your best resources for getting the names of a few good therapists. Often the people they refer to will be someone they have worked with personally, and they can elaborate on the effectiveness of therapy and why they are recommending them.
- Look at databases that list therapists in your local community. These vary in what information they provide, but it's a good starting point to get to names, locations, credentials and usually a website where you can learn more about them. If this is the route you'd like to use, check out psychologytoday.com or therapistlocator.net.
- Conduct a general internet search. Internet searches are the most common way people look for therapists theses days. It can be overwhelming to go this route, simply because Google naturally provides us with an exorbitant amount of information. You can find a therapist that's a good fit going this route, but you'll need to be extra vigilant about their qualifications and specialties.
3) Conduct Phone Interviews With Potential Matches
Once you've got a few names of therapists in your area, conduct a phone interview with them to narrow your search. Here are some useful questions to ask during the phone interview.
What populations or issues do they specialize in working with?
How long have they been in practice?
What are their license and credentials? Have them explain to you what these means.
What are their fees?
Briefly share what you're seeking therapy for, and ask them if they think they can help you address your concerns.
Approximately how long do they usually work with people who are experiencing something similarly?
What is it like to be in therapy with them? What should you expect?
If you plan on going to therapy with another adult, share with them what you've discovered from your interviews and research, and together decide who is most likely to be a good fit.
4) Set Up First Appointment With The Person or Persons You Believe Might Be A Good Fit
Some therapist's offer a free in-person consultation, and some do not. Regardless, the first session is a good time to ask any other questions you may have about the therapy process, to see if you feel comfortable with them, and to clarify if they can help you address your concerns.
Some people may feel uncomfortable continuing to assess if their therapist is a good fit. But any good therapist knows they are not a good fit for every person, even when they specialize in addressing your concerns. If you don't feel that you connect with the therapist or hopeful they can help you address your reasons for coming, then you may need to consider continuing your search.
5) Decide On A Therapist And Make A Commitment
If you think you've found a therapist that can help you, invest in going for a period of time. If you don't, then give yourself permission to continue your search. As with any health care need, the goal of this assessment process is to set you up to make the most informed and empowered decision about care for yourself and your loved ones.
Therapy is a significant investment of time, money and most importantly, of yourself and your relationships. Use these steps to guide you in your search, and you'll be taking the first step towards accomplishing your goals.