“I need to talk to someone……I can’t figure this out by myself…….My friends and family can’t help me..”or “my friends and family keep saying ‘Aren’t you over ________yet?’ ”
How do you choose a therapist? How do you know if this stranger will be someone you can talk to?
If you search online for a counselor/psychotherapist these days, your search will inevitably come up with names in the tens to one hundreds. Looking for a therapist online can be a daunting experience; quite the endeavor unto itself.
Who has the time?
If you want to find the right therapist for you, you will need to put some time aside to read through therapists’ profiles. And, I have to admit, after a while they all start sounding alike.
I went to Psychology Today’s website to check out my own profile. This is one of the most popular website’s for searching out a therapist. I myself starting advertising online many years ago-and Psychology Today was where I started.
I haven’t been there in a while. And I have to admit, I was a little overwhelmed by all of the therapist profiles. And that’s just on one website.
I get asked all the time, by friends and acquaintances, how do I find a therapist? Can you give me the name of someone? Can I see you?
So I thought I’d share with my readers what I tell my friends, when asked, about how to find a therapist.
1. Ask around. If you have a friend,coworker,family member that you know has dealt with, say, depression, as them if they would mind sharing with you if they saw someone for help with it. If they mention they saw a therapist, ask them, “What is it that you like, and didn’t like, about your therapist?” The same goes if you’re looking for a therapist for your kids. “Does your son/daughter seem to like their therapist?” No therapist is perfect, but you can get some good insight here on what to look for for yourself.
2. Read profiles online. I know this can be a time-consuming task, but a useful one. You may find a word or a sentence that stand out for you. Something the therapist says may resonate with you. Write down their name.
3. Plan on calling a few and see if you can talk to them on the phone first. Pay attention to turn-around time. If you leave a voice message, how long does it take for them to call back? Sometimes, but not always, it can be a predictor of their level of busy-ness and availability.
4. Know what questions to ask. Most therapists will talk to you for at least a few minutes. Some a little longer. Maybe up to 10 minutes. Briefly let them know why you’re coming to therapy and confirm that this is something they can work with. For example, say their online profile mentions that they treat Eating Disorders. When you’re on the phone with them, ask them specifically what they treat. Anorexia Nervosa? Bulimia? Do you work with Overeating? It’s important to know this and will save you a ton of time.
5. Sometimes, but not always, you can get a sense of the person by listening to their voice. This might sound silly, and it won’t tell you about their knowledge and skill level, but you may get a sixth sense of their ability to empathize. Do you feel comfortable talking on the phone with them? Yes? This may be a clue that this is someone you can consider sharing some personal information with.
6. Select two or three therapists and go for a first appointment. Some therapists may meet with you for a shortened therapy session; like a consultation appointment. Most, however, will want you to come in for a first full “let’s get to know each other” session. I understand that this is time-consuming but it’s important to meet your potential counselor. This is someone with whom you are going to be spending time and emotional energy with. It’s important for you to devote the time to meet with them.
7. Know what type of therapist you will be seeing. What I mean is, what is their training? What type of therapy do they utilize? Cognitive Behavioral? Rational-Emotive? Are they a Relational Therapist? You may know very little about the different types of treatments out there, so even more it’s important to share what it is you’re looking for. If they say they utilize an “Eclectic” approach, dig further. They might be a great therapist for you, but you need to know more about their training and if they can work with your issue. Do they have experience treating your concern?
These are just a few ideas about how to go about finding a therapist. In the end, it really is all about the FIT. This is someone you are going to be sharing private thoughts and emotions with. You must be comfortable with them. Whether it be a therapist to help you with your panic attacks or someone to help you begin the process of looking at childhood trauma, you must feel safe and you must be able to trust that you can develop a relationship with this person-that they will be able to “get” you.
Psychotherapy is an investment. It’s an investment of time, energy, and money. It’s an investment in you. So take your time. Find your “fit”. It’s the beginning. The beginning of a relationship that can potentially help to bring you peace and healing. It’s worth it.