Finding the Right Therapist for YOU!
As we explored in my previous blog post When is the Right Time to Start Therapy? the decision to start therapy is often a very thoughtful and difficult one. Part of that challenge is trying to imagine the therapeutic experience with a stranger and worrying about who you would choose to work with. Would they be able to help you? Who should I choose? There are thousands of therapists out there. Searching on Google or Psychology Today for "therapist" in your area will produce an overwhelming amount of websites and names. So who do you pick? I want to help you by providing you with some tools in this post that can help you narrow down your options and decrease the anxiety that goes into making this decision.
Questions to ask when searching for your ideal therapist
What are you seeking therapy for?
People seek out therapy for a multitude of reasons and for each of those reasons there are specialists out there. Narrow your search to include what you are looking for therapy for and find the clinicians who are credentialed or specialized in your area of need. If there are no specialists in your area, look outside your area. Feel free to contact a specialist in a different geographic region to see if they know of anyone near you or could recommend a telehealth service that could meet your needs. I am a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist and receive many calls from individuals and organizations looking for services in many different geographic regions, including South Florida (my location). Finding an expert to help you will boost your confidence and trust in the process from the start. You will have fewer worries about your therapist's ability to help you upon walking into your first session if you know already that this is what they focus their practice and their training on.
What approach would you respond best with?
Are you looking for a calm, warm, and nurturing therapist? A no-nonsense, to-the-point therapist? A therapist who can break the ice and make you laugh? When you look at a therapist's website you start to get a sense of their personality. Therapists are people and you are about to sit with this person and talk to them for a while. Try to get a sense if this is someone you could trust and get along with. In my own therapy, I always found myself more open with therapists that incorporated humor and felt "real" in their work. I did not enjoy the overly-soft toned nurturing sort. That is just me though. Many people may prefer the latter because they are more soothing. You have to know a little bit about yourself to help you decide. Also, remember you can still make your decision after you meet with them. Going to a first or even second session does not commit you to work with this clinician forever. You can continue to assess goodness of fit even after you have started working together.
Do you like what they have to say?
You can learn a lot from a therapist's website or Psychology Today profile. Usually, they will have a picture and a brief write-up about their practice and style. See if you like what they have to say in written form. Do they offer what you want? Also know that you can and should always have a brief call with them before scheduling your first appointment. You can interview them! Ask them if they practice therapy in a way that you would respond well to. Try to get a sense of the phone call if you would like to meet this person. You may know some of the therapeutic practice jargon (CBT, DBT, ACT, etc) and if there is a certain technique you are looking for you can ask if they commonly use that in their practice. Also, if they don't have what you are looking for you can ask them if they can recommend someone who might have what you are looking for.
Are they accessible to you?
Obviously we can't all fly across the country to see the top specialist for our issues and even if we could we may not be able to afford them once we got there. I wish cost and time were not a factor, but of course, they are. Many people start their search for therapists off of their insurance company's provider finder directory hoping to find someone they can use their insurance benefits with. However, with recent changes to the insurance climate, there are fewer and fewer therapists who are able to accept insurance and fewer insurance plans that will cover your sessions. Most insurance plans now have high deductibles that the average person is not able to meet within the year. This means that you will end up paying out of pocket for most of your therapy anyway. Therefore, if you can, look outside of your plan. If you want a more accessible and specialized therapist you should look for that first, then consider the cost. A lot of practices, mine included, elect to not take insurance for your privacy and to increase access to the clinician. If I took insurance in my practice I would have to work three to four times as many hours for half of the pay, requiring me to take on more clients than I am probably comfortable with. I choose not to be burnt out and want to be able to offer my clients a premium service and flexible scheduling. Also, I want to protect my client's confidentiality. When you use your insurance your confidentiality is more limited due to the required information the clinician must send in. With that information insurance companies can also decide to deny claims if they don't feel that you "need therapy at this time." Understandably, many people rely on their insurance to cover some or all of their therapy but try to not make that the primary criteria for you. Many out-of-network practices, such as mine, can also provide you with "super bills" you can submit for reimbursement if you have out-of-network benefits. This is an easy and effective way to see whoever you want and get some money back from your insurance, without having to provide more information than your diagnosis and billing codes.
Do you feel comfortable in the office once you arrive?
So now, you have thought about what you are seeking therapy for, found your specialist who is a good fit for you, interviewed the clinician on the phone, and have arrived at your first appointment. This is not just your interview to provide information to the therapist to help him/her understand what is going on and who you are; this is the therapist's interview to see if you feel comfortable with this person. Are you comfortable in this office? Do you like this therapist you are sitting with? Do they have something to offer your that can help you with your presenting issues? Do you want to come back here? Check-in with yourself during this session. Anxiety is normal and likely you will not feel 100% comfortable in the first session, but is your discomfort coming from you, or is it coming from the setting or clinician? Try to distinguish it and if you can't, there is always the next session. You can also try out other clinicians before making a decision. However, don't get too stuck in the interview process, that may be the avoidance of your work. If you have seen a few therapists and none of them feel like a good fit try to assess is this your avoidance of going deeper in your work? Are you too focused on finances over the goodness of fit in your selection criteria? Are you giving therapy enough of a chance? If you answered yes to those questions then go back to one of the therapists you saw and try to explore those questions first. Your therapist can also provide referrals if later on, you both decide you would be better suited to someone else.
Therapy is a commitment and finding the right fit in your therapist is important. I hope this post has been helpful for you in your selection process. I also want to make myself available if you are trying to find a therapist in the South Florida area and need some help or resources to find one that is a good fit. Please call 954-590-0597 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.