Five Things to Consider When Searching for a Therapist

February 27th, 2018 by Nana Amoh

Finding a therapist can feel like an overwhelming task. Seeking therapy can be particularly difficult if you are a part of a cultural community that associates mental health treatment with stigma. If you are interested in pursuing treatment with a mental health professional, but you aren’t quite sure about how to do so, this article is for you. While this list is far from exhaustive, here are five key things you should take into consideration while searching for a therapist.

Background

Evaluate the therapist’s background. This includes reviewing their education, training, and licensure status. It also involves thinking about who the therapist is and thinking about who you want your therapist to be. For example, you may want a therapist who shares your racial identity. Therapists with personal websites will generally provide all of this information in addition to personal anecdotes that give potential clients a better sense of who they are as therapists. Reading testimonials written by current or past clients on websites like zocdoc.com is also a good idea, because testimonials can give you a sense of what you can expect in treatment.

If you are interested in talk therapy, you will very likely be seeking treatment from a social worker, psychiatrist, licensed mental health counselor, or psychologist. For more information about how these professions compare and differ, click here.

Therapist Specialty

Choose a therapist who provides specialized services that will address your concerns. For instance, if you are struggling with issues related to depression, you might consider selecting a therapist who specializes in treating mood disorders using a therapeutic intervention called Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). If you are dealing with substance abuse issues, you may be interested in participating in group psychotherapy with other individuals facing similar problems. Finding out whether the therapist specializes in working with specific populations (e.g., LGBT adolescents ages 13-17) may also be particularly important if you feel like the issues you are presenting with are directly linked to aspects of your identity (e.g., race-based traumatic stress).

Insurance

Determining whether a therapist accepts various forms of payment for treatment is critical. Some therapists accept insurance in full, while others accept partial insurance coverage and copay. Therapists may also offer clients sliding-scale payment options that allow clients with financial difficulties to pay less than the standard fee for the same treatment.

Schedule

Ensuring that you and your therapist can meet at a prearranged time on a consistent basis is essential before starting treatment. Do your best to confirm that you will be able to carve out time in your schedule to commit to treatment. Depending on how flexible and available your therapist is, the length and frequency of therapy sessions may be negotiable. Therapists are also generally open about their rules concerning late arrivals and unexcused cancellations; so, don’t be afraid to inquire about their attendance policies.

Location

Whether you choose to seek treatment in a private practice office, hospital, or community clinic, make sure that your treatment center is accessible. It is important for you to choose a facility that is convenient for you to get to,

because you will need to attend treatment regularly. If you are unable or unwilling to participate in treatment in person, you can also consider participating in therapy over the phone or participating in telepsychology—therapy conducted via video conferencing.

Finding a therapist takes time and effort, and it’s not uncommon to leave a first session feeling disenchanted and/or unnerved. It may help to think about the process like an audition. As the client, you are the judge, and you are tasked with gauging whether potential candidates have the knowledge, skills, and awareness to address your issues. Consider setting up appointments by phone and/or in person with a short list of therapists who you feel could be a good fit for you. Remember not to rush the process, and feel free to take as much or as little time as you need to find the right match.

Be sure to check out our directory for culturally-responsive therapists!

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