Natalie David, LCSW
How to Find a "Great Fit" Therapist
Updated: May 14, 2018
So you have decided that you are tired of feeling depressed, anxious, unmotivated and hopeless. Or perhaps, your relationship, parenting problems or work problems are becoming overwhelming, and you are ready to get some professional help. You might decide to seek therapy for many reasons, and that choice is often the most difficult hurdle in the journey. If you have reached that decision, congratulations! You are already on the path that will eventually lead you to feeling better. But, how do you choose the right therapist?
In order to benefit fully from therapy, you should take the time to find a therapist that is a great fit for you. Many therapists will consult with you by telephone prior to setting up a first appointment. Use that time to get some important information to make a decision about which one best suits your needs. Here are a few things to consider:
Did you know that some people actually practice therapy without any education or qualifications whatsoever? Make sure that anyone you speak with is licensed to practice in their field in the state that you reside in. It takes years of graduate education and internship to gain a license to practice therapy. Licensed therapists are also required to maintain their skills by taking continuing education courses in order to provide current and relevant treatment to clients.
YOUR COMFORT LEVEL
Like any relationship, the client/therapist relationship has to be a good match. Did you feel comfortable in the consultation phone call? Did he/she have a good disposition? What was your gut feeling when talking with the therapist? In order to succeed in treatment, you should find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable. During sessions you will discuss sensitive issues that require a level of trust that is only possible if you are at ease.
Decide what you are looking for out of therapy. Do you want to explore your unconscious motivations for behaviors? If so, then a psychodynamic approach would be best for you. If you prefer to focus on changing your thought patterns and making changes to your emotions and behaviors in time limited treatment, then a cognitive-behavioral (CBT) approach may appeal to you. There are many approaches to therapy, and it is best to know what you like, and what your therapist is trained in and utilizes. This is also a good time to ask about goal setting and time frames for your presenting problem.
Deciding how to pay for therapy is also a big factor in choosing the right therapist. Will you be using insurance to pay for your sessions? If so, you will need to find out if the potential therapist is covered in your plan. If they are not, then find out how much your insurance company will reimburse you for an out of network provider. Does the therapist provide you with a “superbill”- a document that you will submit to your insurance company for partial reimbursement? Get all the details in advance in order to avoid any confusion later. If you plan to pay for therapy out of pocket, ask each potential therapist what their rate is, and whether they have a “sliding scale”. Remember that the lowest rate is not always the best choice. Decide what is best for you. An investment in your mental health is an investment in your long term success.
After making a few calls, you will likely find a therapist that stands out as a great fit for you. Then, you will be ready to move on to the next step on your path to wellness. From this point forward, remember to keep an open mind! Therapy can be difficult in the beginning. Some people may feel a sense of intense relief in discussing thoughts that have weighed heavily on their minds for a long time. Others may feel increased anxiety at first in openly discussing the thoughts that they have held secret for ages. All these emotions are normal, and there will be many other emotions along the way! But, ultimately, if therapy is successful, you will learn to recognize thought patterns, understand the emotions attached to the thoughts, and learn coping skills that you can utilize throughout your life.