Congratulations on taking the step into therapy! I am so proud of you! As I’ve said multiple times, therapy is for everyone and hopefully with this guide down below, it’ll make it easier for you to find the right therapist for you. You ready?
Get real with yourself: Goals, Budget, Non-Negotiables To Find The Right Therapist
Goals: In order to find the right therapist, you will need to make a list of the things you would like to tackle during your sessions. Do you want to learn how to control your anxiety? Are you fighting to maintain your happy? Looking to learn how to communicate your feelings better? List it out. It makes for a good starting point within your first session. If you do not have specifics that you would like to work on, focus on how you’d like to feel after you leave your sessions. Do you want clarity? Want to feel empowered? Understood? Be honest with yourself, and most importantly be realistic.
Non-Negotiables: For me, one of my biggest nonnegotiables was that I wanted a therapist that was going to put in the same effort I am willing to. I didn’t want a yes-man or an “I see” cop-out. I wanted someone who was going to challenge me, and teach me how to challenge myself. Some things you may want to consider are race, gender, age and education. You should also do your research and check out what they specialize in. I lean towards professionals who have the traditional practices down such as the CBT approach, but also dabble within techniques such as EFT or EMDR. For me, it shows they’re willing to think outside of the norm, and I am always down for experimenting if it means peace of mind and spirit.
Budget: How much are you willing to pay for your sessions? Have a realistic dollar amount in mind, and don’t forget, your sessions may come at price (but that is okay). We invest in protecting and healing our outer layers, we should also be doing the same with our mental innards. If you are insured, now would be a great time to look into what your plan may cover within your network and outside of it. My last therapist was out of network, but I liked her a lot, so I budgeted to hit my out of network deductible, and let me health plan take care of the rest. Not only that, a few therapists do offer a sliding scale, so don’t rule out all the therapists that may be out of budget. The goal is to find the right therapist for you, and trust me, things will fall into place.
Begin The Hunt
My very first therapist was provided to me after I tried to commit suicide at age 16. She was good, but we didn’t connect. My next therapist was on campus. She was an intern, she was close to my age… and she was free. But my last few therapists? Those I searched for. One through the list my health-insurance provided me. The others simply from searching the internet.
If you’re open with your search for a therapist, ask your friends and family members for references. Trust me boo, you’re not the only person in your circle that has dabbled in therapy in some sort of fashion. If you’re on the private side, or simply a do-it-yourself type of person, take to the interwebs and hunt like you do everything else. Two places I tend to stop first are Psychology Today and ZocDoc. ZocDoc is a site I use for all of my doctor needs. It allows me to narrow down specialists based on a few filters and also let’s me schedule an appointment within the site. Psychology Today does the same minus the appointments, but it’s more specific to mental health needs.
* Don’t forget to reference your nonnegotiables list as you do your search and gather perspective therapists.
Call and Schedule Your Consultation.
Yep, call them. Have your freak out. Panic. Meditate. Skip the procrastination, and call them. Ask if you can set up a 15 minute consultation and prep some questions to ask. The idea is to save yourself some time (and money, honey) and get a feel for the therapist before actually meeting them. During this short call, ask your pertinent questions and be sure to share your goals too. Here are a few things on my checklist I like to discuss and take note of:
- Education! Where did they get their education? What are some of their specialities?
- Share what you’re hoping to get out of therapy. Maybe even the timeline you want to achieve your goals within. Remember, be reasonable and patient with yourself.
- Listen to their responses. Do you feel understood? Do you feel at peace? Are their responses aligning with what you’re looking for?
- Ask if they too have been to therapy. I strongly believe in practicing what you preach, so it’s a red flag if they’ve never experienced therapy.
- Cost. Get a head of it and let them know your budget.
If you still feel comfortable after this mini consultation, go ahead and make your first face to face appointment!
The First Date- I Mean Session.
During your first session it’s really important that you are as comfortable as possible. Take note of everything while you share your story. All of this will decide if you will be continuing with this therapist. Is your therapist a good listener or are they talking more than you? Have they discussed a treatment plan with you? Do you like the approach of it? Is the conversation organic? It’s okay to be nervous during this first face to face interaction, but at the end of it you should feel supported and somewhat at ease (and possibly still nervous too). If something feels off, be sure to tell the therapist. They may approach things differently with you moving forward, or they may simply refer you to a suitable fit.
Keep in mind, to find the right therapist, you may have to go through a few, and that is absolutely okay. This is YOUR healing and you need the right professional to aid you in receiving it, whether it is learning to control your anxiety, or working through traumatic experiences. Prospective therapists will understand if you choose not to continue with them, and honestly, it’s none of your business if they don’t. Date your therapists, hop around if you need to, but do not settle on a professional that you don’t vibe with. That’s not how therapy works.
Keep attending your therapy sessions, and keep a log of how you feel. After a few weeks, you should feel as though you are making progress, and you should be a bit more comfortable with your therapist. If this is not the case, well, you know what to do. Begin the hunt again!
I know I couldn’t have covered everything, so in the comments
what are some other steps you may take to make sure you find the right therapist for you?