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  • Writer's pictureVictoria

Navigating the Journey: 6 Essential Tips for Finding a Therapist

Updated: 6 days ago


I am often asked the question “how do I find a therapist?” Many people have told me that they feel overwhelmed and do not know where to start or they had a previous bad experience and don't know how to find “a good therapist.” Whether a therapist is good or not is very subjective and depends on whether that therapist is able to create a safe, empathic environment and is able to help you meet your therapeutic goals(I will address this in more detail in a future post). But there are some standard practices I encourage people to use when wading through the plethora of options and finding a good match. Here are 6 things to consider when choosing a therapist.




 

Cost

Depending on where you live, the cost of therapy can easily range from $120-$250 per session for individual therapy and $180-$300 per session for couple’s therapy. I always recommend that clients check with their insurance provider first to find out exactly what they cover and if they can reimburse you if you choose an out of network provider. If your provider does reimburse for out of network providers, ask your therapist for a monthly Super Bill. This is an itemized form with all the information that your insurance provider needs in order to reimburse you for your sessions. Many therapists opt out of taking insurance because of the many administrative requirements and the low rates that insurance providers pay therapists. To provide some equity, some therapists, like me, offer sliding scale rates as a way to meet clients where they are financially. It doesn't hurt to ask about all of these options as you are interviewing therapists. There are also mental health funds that assist people from marginalized populations with the cost of therapy such as The Loveland Foundation, The National Queer & Trans Therapist of Color Network and The Mental Health Emergency Fund.


Frequency & Availability

Think about how soon you want to start, how often you want to go and what time of day works best for you. Considering these factors prior to scheduling is very helpful because it allows you time to prepare for sessions-gather your thoughts and set your intention-and then come down from the session once it's over e.g. digest what was discussed, feel your feelings or do some kind of self-soothing activity (I used to treat myself to a pastry after my sessions!).


Think about how often (weekly, bi-weekly) and what time of day works best for your schedule. Leading with this information can help quickly narrow down your options because it allows the therapists to see if they have any openings that meet your needs before moving on with the intake process. 

If you feel extremely overwhelmed or think you are experiencing a crisis, it's probably best to plan for weekly sessions, at least until life has stabilized (your therapist can also help determine this). I typically encourage clients to start at least bi-weekly to give ample time for the therapeutic relationship to develop. Meeting once a month causes the relationship to develop extremely slowly and allows for a lot of life to happen in between sessions causing the presenting problem to build without interventions. I typically reserve monthly sessions for those who have been in therapy for a considerable amount of time and are beginning to transition out of regular occurring therapy.


If you find a therapist that you really connect with and they do not have openings, ask to see if the therapist has a wait list. Some therapists will keep a waitlist when they are full and will contact you when there is an opening that matches your availability.


In-Person or Virtual

Think about whether you want in person or virtual (telehealth). In this post COVID world, many therapists are now offering both in person sessions as well as virtual sessions. It is important to note that therapists who offer virtual sessions cannot see everyone everywhere; clients must reside in the state in which the therapist is licensed. In person sessions are great for creating a defined time and space for therapeutic work to take place. It removes you from your daily surroundings and distractions and can aide in focusing. The downside is that you might find a therapist that meets your needs but, is too far away for you to get to easily or consistently. For this reason, virtual could be a great option.


Virtual sessions allow for greater options during your search process since you are not limited by proximity(as long as the therapist is licensed in the state where you reside). Virtual sessions are also very convenient since you can log on whenever from wherever you are at the time as long as you have privacy, comfort and a strong, reliable wi-fi connection.


Know Your Goals

I have had several clients start therapy knowing that they need therapy but, are so new to the process they may not know how to clinically describe or articulate what the specific issue might be. That’s ok! That's actually our job! You just need to take time to think through and put into words what you are struggling with-what you are feeling or doing, what you don't want to feel or do anymore, maybe what you have questions about-in your own words, so that you can describe it to the perspective therapist. The therapist will be able to talk it through with you and provide the necessary clarity and specificity needed to determine the appropriate path for treatment.


Ask for a Free Consultation

If you are unsure if a therapist you are interested in will be a good fit for you, ask for a free consultation. Therapists usually do not mind scheduling a short amount of time, typically 15 minutes, for a chat where you can ask questions and get a sense of how you connect with the therapist. Use this time to interview the therapist. Do not assume that every therapist knows the same things or approach therapy in the same way because we do not. I encourage potential clients to ask questions about the therapist’s experience with the issues that they want to work on i.e. trauma, sexual identity, eating disorders, religion etc. If you have an interest in a specific technique or modality, like somatic work, EMDR, or anything you might have heard about, it’s important to mention that so you can find out if the therapist has experience using those specific techniques with previous clients. Don't be afraid to ask questions about their educational background, years of experience or anything else that may help you feel comfortable working with them. I have had new clients ask me everything from how many years have I been in practice to what do I do for self care, all of which should be welcome by any therapist because it shows how serious you are about finding a good fit.


Be Patient & Give it (a little) Time

The best therapy happens when there is a strong, trusting therapeutic relationship; this can easily take several sessions to cultivate. The therapist just met you, so the first couple of sessions are typically focused on collecting basic assessment data about who you are, your medical, psychological, family history and getting more clarity from you about the presenting problem(s). Be patient. This is a critical time that enables the therapist to understand who you are and for the two of you to begin establishing a rapport. You can use this time to feel out your own comfort level with the therapist’s approach to asking you questions and how well they listen. You may not feel like much has happened during the first couple of sessions, that's to be expected because the process takes times. However, depending on the therapist's style and approach, you should start to feel like you are laying a solid foundation for work to happen. If however, for some reason, you do not feel heard, feel as though you are being too activated too soon or simply realize that it's not a good fit, it's ok to stop and find someone else.    

Choosing a therapist can feel like a daunting process but, if you keep these 6 things in mind during your search, it should make the process feel more manageable and focused.

    

 

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