I was at a gathering recently and a family friend asked me:
“How do I find the right therapist? All the ones I call are either not on my insurance, are not taking new patients, or are booked for months. I feel like I’m just calling around to get in with anybody regardless of whether they are any good!”
There are so many fish in the sea!
How do you know when you’ve found the ONE?!
Therapist that is. Not the love of your life (that’s a topic for another time).
This is a question I get all the time!
Whether it’s a parent looking for an adolescent therapist or family therapy, a wife or girlfriend looking for couples counseling, or someone dealing with grief and loss that needs someone to talk to.
In today’s world of counseling and therapy a person has many options to choose from. The first of which is, do they want to receive counseling online or physically go see their therapist in person. There are numerous online therapy sites popping up all over the internet. For instance, I work with eHome Behavioral Care to provide online therapy for clients in MD or VA. There are pros and cons to both; but, once that decision is made there are different things to consider in finding the ONE.
The following 8 steps can help make your search less draining and time-consuming. Here are the top places to look to find the best therapist to fit your needs.
1. Know Your Benefits – For the vast majority that can’t afford to pay out of pocket, you’ll want to contact your insurance provider and check what your mental health benefits are.
You’ll want to know if they cover cyber or teletherapy (online therapy). Do you have a co-pay or a deductible? You’ll also want to know if you have out of network benefits.
Your insurance provider can often give you a list of in-network providers in your area; however, don’t be surprised if the list is inaccurate, the therapist isn’t taking new clients, or there is a significant wait time to schedule the first appointment. Don’t be discouraged and don’t give up searching. The steps that follow will help guide you to the right person.
2. Check the Internet – The phonebook is all but dead.
These days everyone checks their favorite search engine to find what they’re looking for. Most people aren’t going to search past the first two pages of options; but, it pays to understand a little bit of search engine optimization.
If the listing says “ad” next to it in tiny little letters then they have paid Google, Bing, Yahoo or whoever for page placement at the top.
Beyond the ads, the search engine has ranked all of the listings based on their algorithms and search criteria. The higher the ranking, the more likely that they fit the search words you typed in. The easiest thing to start with is typing in counseling or therapy in your geographic location. Ex. Counseling in Harrisburg, PA.
Most every therapist has a website these days. They should have information about the therapist to give you a sense of who they are and what therapy with them is like. Many of those therapists have a way to initiate contact by emailing their support staff, contacting the therapist directly or filling out online interest forms. Otherwise, you will have to call to set up your first appointment. (I’ll be covering what to expect from scheduling and your first appointment in the next post)
3. Use Your Network – Talk to trusted friends and family. Someone in your network has either been to counseling themselves or knows someone else who has. If you’re comfortable with it, use a bit of crowdsourcing on your social media accounts to gather a few referrals for possible options.
4. Look Up Psychology Today – Not only is Psychology Today the leading psychology publication, they have a directory for finding a therapist, group counseling, and psychiatrists. They certify every therapist’s license is active and accurate at the time the profile is set up. It’s pretty standard for a therapist to purchase profile space with Psychology Today. Their profile can give you a sense of what the therapist is like before you call to schedule.
However, Psychology Today does NOT use search engine optimization algorithms to rank the profiles. Psychology Today’s policy on this is to rotate the profiles through, which evens the playing field. But, this also means that you may not find the best fit on the first two pages of profiles. The best fit could possibly be on the 10th or 11th page on the particular day that you go searching.
5. Check Good Therapy – GoodTherapy.org is another resource with great articles as well as directories for finding therapists of all kinds. You’re better off checking both this and Psychology Today as not every therapist will have a profile with both sites.
6. Visit Specific Organizations – If you know you’re looking for a particular type of counseling, like Gottman Counseling or someone who specializes in working with autism spectrum disorder, then check with those organizations websites. They will often have a listing of trained and certified therapists in your area.
7. Ask Your Doctor – Your family doctor is a wealth of information for referrals of all types. Typically, they are very trusted because they know you and have worked with you and your family for so long. They often have a list of referrals for counselors.
8. Look to Your Religious Leaders – Many will often turn to their pastor, rabbi or imam during difficult times. Up to a certain point they may be equipped to speak with you about certain issues. Beyond that, they often refer out for mental health counseling. If your place of worship is large enough, they may have their own counseling center or they will have a list of counselors that they recommend. This is helpful because they are often in line with your spiritual worldview.
By the time you’ve acknowledged that you or a loved one needs therapy it’s usually time sensitive. This list of tips will help you get a jump start on finding the best therapist for your needs. While it’s not always the smoothest process, it has become a lot easier to find the perfect therapist for you.
Next Post: Finding The Perfect Therapist Part 2 – Questions to ask the therapist and what to expect from your first appointment.
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