Finding a therapist isn't easy. In addition to the expected questions around convenience issues like geographic location and appointment times, there are also the more individual variables. Do you want a therapist of color? Male, female, or elsewhere on the gender spectrum? Is it important to you that your therapist be queer-friendly, supportive of sex work, or a proponent of health at every size? This is the person with whom you probably expect to get pretty vulnerable - it's important to find a good fit. And it's natural that I won't be the best fit for all the folks out there who are looking for a therapist! That's why I wrote this post, because if you've found yourself on this page, you're taking a brave first step, and I want to honor that first step with some useful information that might help you find a therapist that will be great - for you.
Unfortunately, there's no easy way out of just doing your own search, since there are so many variables – what you want to work on, location, insurance, sliding scale pay, characteristics of the therapist, etc. Psychology Today is a great search tool; you can filter by many variables on that site, including topic, specialty, languages, religion, location, gender, and insurances accepted.
Another good place to look for therapists is on your insurance's website. Depending on the insurance site, you can search by area, start googling to see who you like the sound of, and then start calling to see who's accepting clients.
Once you start meeting therapists, though, the work doesn't stop. Once you get to this stage, this post is very helpful:
https://captainawkward.com/2012/12/30/414-what-are-the-green-flags-for-a-good-therapist/ (the comments are very useful too)
This post is also pretty good, although the writer gets some of the acronyms and titles wrong:
Some other good sources on evaluating a therapist: - https://www.buzzfeed.com/annaborges/how-to-start-therapy - https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freudian-sip/201102/how-find-the-best-therapist-you
As you’re calling around to prospects, don't be shy about asking for a consultation – it's good practice for therapists to do a brief phone consultation with prospective clients before asking clients to come in for a full paid session. Even if you don't see it advertised anywhere that the therapist does a phone consult, ask!
The biggest advice I have, after instituting all the steps above, is this: listen to your gut. Throughout the whole process, don't be afraid of asking questions. In the beginning, these can be questions like:
- How do you typically work with clients? - What kind of therapeutic modalities do you prefer to use? - Without betraying confidentiality, what do you consider to be a successful stint of therapy for a client?
Both the answers and the tone of the answers are going to be clarifying here. Don't worry about knowing anything about the therapeutic modalities – you can always go home and google, or just stay in the process and trust the therapist. Pay more attention to the therapists's tone – are your shoulders up around your ears? Do you feel condescended to or unheard? Like someone's telling you how to live your life or lecturing you? Then it's not a good fit. Good therapy is a place where you can simultaneously feel unconditionally supported and respectfully challenged, all at your speed and with a road map of your clearly stated goals leading the way. Don't have clarified goals? Then that's your first goal, to clarify them, with the therapist as facilitator. Because that's the thing – a good therapist knows they are nothing more than a facilitator. You're doing the true work.
As you get deeper into the therapy, it's always good to assess if it's still working for you. Good questions for several months into the process might be, "how do you think I'm progressing?" or "can we have another conversation about my goals and how I'm doing with them?"
One other tip – if you get a goodish feeling in your gut and move ahead with the therapist, be prepared for it to take at least 6 sessions before you start feeling a true connection or a change. This work can take time. You’re brave to make the attempt – good luck!