Figuring out how to find a therapist can seem like a daunting task. Hopefully, reading this blog entry will help you if you feel stuck and aren’t sure of what to do.
Step 1 of How To Find a Therapist: Deciding to hire a therapist
You have committed to bettering yourself and are enlisting the help of an expert by hiring a therapist. That’s right, you are hiring someone to assist you in feeling better, getting to your goals, consulting with you to learning coping strategies, and/or treating you a specific or range of mental health issues. You are in charge. This is your health and well being. Be proud of yourself for making this 1st step for yourself.
Step 2 Where do I find a therapist?
There are several ways to find a therapist. You can call your insurance company to see who is covered on your plan. Your health insurance may or may not cover mental health. Calling them is the best way to find out or you can go through the literature you get when you sign up. You will probably still need to call to get a list of providers in your area. Keep in mind that health insurance may only cover so many sessions.
Word of mouth can be great way to find a therapist. If you are comfortable, ask friends and relatives. Some people are more comfortable talking to their primary care physician 1st. You primary care physician refer you to someone. They might also recommend and prescribe some medication if you need something like help for anxiety or depression.
Online Resources can be very helpful in researching the right therapist for you. On psychologytoday.com and GoogTherapy.com they have a search function to find a therapist or psychiatrist in your area. On each therapist’s profile there will be there contact information and a specific list of specialties, education, what they charge per session, and how long they have been practicing in their field. This is usually how I find therapists.
Good old google can also be helpful in finding a local therapist but I would still recommend researching on psychologytoday.com to double check they treat your particular concern.
These are the top methods I use to find a therapist. There are of course, probably other ways. Feel free to drop a comment below to list any other ways you have found helpful.
Step 3 Calling around/emailing to get your 1st therapy appointment
Calling therapists can be time consuming. Most likely, they aren’t going to pick up and you will need to leave a message. They may be in session at the time of your call if it is during business hours. Most do not have a staff that answers the phones for them unless they are in a group office or clinic. Leave a message with your name an number and a brief message. I usually write out a little script for myself of what I am going to say with my contact info. I even practice is a few times out loud to get comfortable before making the 1st call. This helps me because due to my CPTSD, I get anxiety. I tend to forget my phone number or what I was going to say entirely. If you find yourself shutting down before you can leave a message try something like this:
Hi, my name is Sarah Garlits. If you are accepting new patients, please give me a call. My number is 856-245-xxxx. Thank you!
You don’t have to tell them any details yet on voicemail but you can if you feel comfortable like:
Hi, my name is Sarah Garlits. I have PTSD and I am looking for a therapist. If you are accepting new patients, please give me a call. My number is 856-245-xxxx. Thank you!
The same can work with an email message to the potential new therapist but I have found calling to be more successful in booking someone. Don’t be alarmed if you hear nothing back from 1 or several therapists that you call. Be prepared to contact several if not many before you can schedule an initial appointment. Some won’t be taking new patients. It can be a few days before you hear back from anyone.
Step 4 Going to Your 1st appointment
The 1st therapy appointment is not therapy…yet. The 1st time you are seeing a therapist you are basically feeling each other out to see if you are a good fit. It’s like an interview. If the therapist hasn’t already emailed paperwork to you to fill out before you get there, expect to be filling out forms for awhile and signing some disclaimers. If they are covered on your insurance, there will be some forms for that as well just like when you seek any other medial treatment. Many therapists will ask you to show up 15-30 minutes early to fill out paperwork before the 1st session.
The therapist wants to make sure they can actually help you. They will discuss why you are there to see them and many times take a history of you, you family, and of the issue you are dealing with. You want to make sure they can help you too. You also want to make sure that the 2 of you aren’t like oil and water. Therapy can be uncomfortable and you want to make sure you can talk to this person. You might feel like you want to bail out several times before, during and even after you schedule the next appointment. This is normal. What you don’t want is wanting to bail because of the therapists’s personality. Having said that, some people just suck even if it is their job to talk to other humans so if they are outright rude, judgmental, or act dismissive, bail out and find another therapist.
Do they seem like they really care?
Are they listening to your concerns?
Are they knowledgeable about your issue?
Depending on the issue, it may be very difficult to talk about at 1st. Especially since this is a stranger to you right now. They are not there to judge you and have heard about similar issues with other patients. Be honest and try to keep an open mind about the situation. This is what they do. This is for you and the more you tell the therapist about what you are going through and what your specific goals are the better off the whole experience will be.
What happens if the therapist can’t help you? A good therapist will recognize that they may not be a good fit for your needs and recommend someone else through a referral. Although this can feel crappy having to start over again talking to another new person again this is a good thing! This means this person is not a good fit but someone else will be. It’s the same if you just outright don’t like the therapist at all. Not everyone is a good match. You might go through several therapists before choosing who to hire to help you.
Step 5 Schedule the next appointment
You decided to go to therapy. You made the calls, set the initial therapy appointment, screened the therapists to suite your needs and now?
Not to worry! Once you find a therapist that is a good fit for you, they will schedule a next appointment with you and most likely suggest the number of times per week or month that they think would work best for your treatment.
Step 6 Keep going to our appointments
Therapy is in no way easy and it can be very unpleasant. Keep going to your therapy sessions. Sometimes it can feel like you haven’t made any progress. This is normal. Nothing to do with mental health happens over night. Even if you get that light bulb moment or epiphany in your session, it takes awhile for the brain to accept the information.
Be determined to get yourself through this. If you are really concerned about the lack of progress, talk to your therapist about this concern. They will most likely advise you with information about how the brain works and also tell you about the progress that you are making. Sometimes, we can’t see the progress ourselves. Slow change is difficult but it can be done. I’ve done it and I am going back to therapy myself to keep working on myself to feel better. You got this!