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Tips for Finding The Perfect Therapist For You

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

Finding a the right therapist is like finding a good pair of shoes - there has to be a good fit. Here are a few things to look out for to help you in your search.


Compatability

Think about who you feel most comfortable talking to. What gender is that person? How old is that person? What race is that person? Are you queer/LGBT and would prefer a therapist who also identifies as such? While you may not be able to find all of your preferred characteristics in a therapist, you likely can get close. All of us have a social position in the world. This is a constellation of personal factors that intersect such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation. Those factors change how we are perceived in the world and how we perceive others. Do you want a therapist who will understand your particular social position from personal experience? For example, many women who have experienced trauma feel most comfortable with women providers. Many queer/LGBT individuals feel most comfortable with someone who identifies as LGBT because it is less likely they will need to worry about the therapist's personal feelings about queerness.


Experience and Treatment Orientation

What are you seeing the therapist for? If you are seeking treatment for a specific issue such as substance addiction or Borderline Personality Disorder, you may wish to find a provider who has experience treating these particular disorders. Be sure to ask a potential therapist if they feel comfortable providing counseling for your particular needs.


One of the reasons that therapy sometimes fails is because the client goes into it with an expectation of what treatment will be and the therapist fails to understand exactly what the client is expecting. For example, if you go to therapy with the intention of processing childhood trauma but your therapist is oriented towards motivational interviewing and solution focused brief therapy, both modalities that are more focused on present day issues, it is unlikely you will feel served. When speaking to a potential therapist, let them know any specific areas of focus that you have. If they are not comfortable or skilled in the type of approach you're looking for, they will let you know.


The Rules of Therapy

Every therapist has rules for their practice regarding issues like attendance, lateness to appointments, payments, etc. Your therapist should make all of these rules clear to you before or during the first session. If your therapist doesn't do that, ask. The last thing anyone needs when beginning therapy is a lack of clarity about these sort of expectations. It is also perfectly appropriate for you to ask questions like whether there are late cancelation fees or if the therapist is intending on closing their practice, switching platforms, or taking significant time off any time soon.


Availability

Finding the right therapist is a lot harder when time is of the essence. If your symptoms are severe such as panic attacks, mania, debilitating depression, or suicidal thoughts, you may not be able to wait on a waitlist for six months for your preferred therapist to have an opening. If you need to find someone quickly, it may be best to go through your local mental health clinic. If they also have a waitlist, you may try calling your insurance company to find out who's covered and begin making some calls. If you're in a crisis situation, Google psychiatric emergency services for your area. They will help determine your needs at the time and, if no higher level of care is necessary, will likely be able to point you in the direction of a clinic or therapist who has openings. Even if there isn't a therapist available, they can provide short term support in the interim.


Telehealth is another great option which has opened up availability for many clients across the country who wouldn't have been able to access therapy otherwise. Contact your insurance company to find out if there is a platform that is covered by them. For example, Blue Cross members can often access Well Connection or Live Health Online for telehealth therapy services. If you have financial means but are uninsured or underinsured, you may also try a subscription therapy service such as BetterHelp, Cerebral, or Talk Space. You should research such sites thoroughly, however, as they are a for-profit business and there may be fine print that is unacceptable to you such as the fact that they often sell their client's demographic information to advertisers. That being said, if you cannot find a therapist elsewhere, it is an option.


The Vibe

Sometimes what it really comes down to is whether you feel like you click with the person you're talking to. Most often you'll know this during the first session but there are times when it can take a few more sessions to establish rapport. Any therapist worth their salt would never hold it against anyone if they discontinued sessions due to it not being a good fit. You are not doing yourself any favors by sparing your therapists feelings if you know it isn't working out but you still go anyway. One of the things we want you to be great at is holding boundaries and doing what you need for your own mental well being. If that means that you cancel your last session and ghost me because you feel awkward telling me it isn't working, by all means, do that. It's more important that you have the right therapist for you and I would never take it personally and neither should any therapist. Remember, the therapy is for you so it has to be right for you. Not for the therapist.






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