Finding The Right Therapist
Tips & Tricks for Finding Your Perfect Therapeutic Fit
You’ve been thinking about it for weeks, months, maybe even years, but you just aren’t sure you need it. You just aren’t sure you are ready. You tell your sister “I think I might finally do it,” but then you don’t. You tell your best friends you think it’s time, but it never works out. Maybe you even Google for hours, scouring to find the right fit. No one seems perfect. Must be a sign. Maybe you find the right person, but she’s booked for the month, and waiting 30 days seems silly—you’ll feel better by then. Things seem to improve sometimes, and you lull in and out of contentment thinking no one is happy ALL of the time—I can manage.
Perhaps it isn’t about you at all. Maybe it’s about your marriage. It’s just a phase. All marriages struggle. No couple is perfect. We are just “comfortable” with each other. But is this where you want to be?
Maybe it’s your child. Another day “on Red” for your third grader, another lunch detention for failing to keep his hands to himself. He’s just adjusting. He’s only 9. It’s the winter. He’s just bored. You hope.
Have a teenager? Put your teenager in therapy. Every single one of them could benefit. Even the most dedicated students, loyal of friends, responsible-of-decision-making teens could benefit from a safe place to voice their concerns and talk through daily struggles. Trust me on this one…
So where do you go about finding that perfect therapeutic fit?
Do not begin your search through your insurance. It seems the simplest way, but there are so many other factors at play than if a clinician takes your insurance. Start on Psychology Today (www.psychologytoday.com). Here you will find full profiles, pictures, websites, and specialties of all local therapists that choose to be a part of that resource. TIP: Search your zip code, and if you don’t see anyone right away, change your zip code to those nearby; the website only allows therapists to name 3 zip codes they serve, thus limiting access to their profile unless you type in one of the 3 areas they randomly choose. In fact, choosing a therapist 30 minutes away has its perks—like…having some time in the car to decompress after a difficult session, and not running into your therapist at the grocery store! Most importantly, you widen your search to find the right fit for you and your family.
Now, at the risk of sounding superficial—it’s okay to eliminate therapists by their photo. It’s acceptable (albeit recommended) that you don’t consider a therapist boasting a car-selfie with their 3 cats and a Big Gulp. Even if the rest of their profile seems legit, it’s okay to question that persons decision making skills and whether or not you want them guiding you to your truth. When you find a face you like in an area that’s convenient for your needs, check their profile. Do they specialize in what you need? Do they list the age group you are seeking help for? If yes, that’s a great step, but also make sure they don’t specialize in EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. You run a risk of hiring a jack of all trades, master of none.
Now see if they take your insurance, and if it’s not listed—find out if they accept out of network benefits (and call the number on the back of your insurance card to see if they cover “out of network benefits for mental health services”). If so, the clinician will likely print or email you a detailed receipt, called a “Superbill” that can be submitted for reimbursement. There’s also a chance that they will do the submission for you. Every practice and every clinician is different. And please assess the value of finding the right therapist. If you can afford them, and they seem perfect for you and your family—truly that’s invaluable.
The next step is to call or email that therapist and interview them. Some possible questions to consider:
How long have you been in practice?
How long are sessions?
Do you have a waiting area?
Do you have specialized training in x,y, or z?
What payment do you accept?
Do you have a minute for me to tell you a bit about what’s going on and you can tell me if you believe yourself to be a good fit?
If you offend someone by asking a million questions—offend them, and then call your next option. So…are they really what you’re looking for? If so, set up an appointment. And be patient with clinicians with long waits—if your need isn’t dire, don’t discount all of your research because you have to wait 15 days for an appointment. After all, that only confirms your gut instinct, as a busy schedule is a good sign in the therapy world! Get your foot in the door; the likelihood of getting a better appointment slot the second time around is much higher after your initial consultation.
Making the decision to find a therapist and let someone into your life in the most personal, vulnerable way possible is a massive testament of strength. I consider it a huge honor to be chosen by my clients in this way—it’s not something I take lightly, and it’s certainly not something you should either. Do your research, find your fit, and get excited—you’re about to embark on an amazing new journey, one that’s sure to brighten your future!