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How to Find a Therapist & Which One is the “Right” One?

finding a therapist you trust

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I don’t care how many times I hear or read the words “don’t be afraid to ask for help,” one thing is for certain–I will still have a hard time asking for help.

In school, I was the kid who would struggle silently through my math homework instead of asking a teacher for assistance. 

When my plate is full of a million different tasks, I rarely feel capable of delegating them. 

If my husband (who is a full-time wheelchair user) and I need to move a piece of furniture, we will fight tooth and nail to do it alone, rather than asking the other person to lend a hand.

I’m just not good at putting myself out there and admitting there are things I can’t handle on my own. While I’m fully aware that this isn’t the healthiest way to deal with things, it’s how I’ve always been, and will likely be, for the rest of my life.

Sometimes, however, handling things on your own doesn’t work.

For example, there are many times that self-care and happy thoughts won’t do the trick in mental health circumstances. It’s times like these when seeking outside help is crucial.

The problem is that most of us don’t know where to start.

If you’re interested in starting therapy, there’s a good chance you have tons of questions running through your mind, such as:

What are the questions to ask a potential therapist?

Will my therapist offer grief therapy?

Does insurance cover therapy?

More than anything else, though, you might be stuck on square one…how to find a therapist in the first place.

When it comes to choosing a therapist, there are many considerations. Luckily for you; we’re using our own experiences to help guide you through the process. This way, you’ll feel ready to pick a therapist you can trust.

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Why is it So Hard to Find a Good Therapist? The Frustrating Reality of Admitting You Need Help

Have you ever heard of post-weaning depression or anxiety? If not, you’re not alone.

I never realized this condition was a “thing” until I was approximately three monts post-weaning and right in the thick of it.

While many doctors, nurses, and other individuals will heavily discuss postpartum depression and anxiety, the information available about mental health after weaning is minimal.

For this reason, I felt lost when I’d ended my breastfeeding journey and suddenly felt like I was spiraling down a dark tunnel of anxious thoughts and panic attacks. 

I thought I was broken.

I didn’t consider a connection between nursing and mental health; rather, I assumed that I’d reached a point in my life where my mental health was suffering.

As someone who’s struggled with bouts of anxiety throughout her life, I have never really wondered to myself, “why is self care important.” I KNEW that I needed it to help to deal with my emotions. During this period, however, there was no amount of meditation, exercise, or extra sleep that could pull me out of my anxious fog.

The Realization That I Had to Find a Therapist

Month after month, the pressure of my anxiety felt more significant.

The more frequently I worried about how I felt, the more the consistent the anxious thoughts would become. They were more intense and more all-consuming.

I’d never considered choosing a therapist before that period.

Suddenly, however, I was at a loss and desperate for someone to talk to. I became consumed with trying to figure out how to find a therapist. 

The number of mental health practitioners in any area is overwhelming. Even worse is the fact that each therapist has their own areas of expertise and techniques that might not work for every person.

I began thinking to myself: why is it so hard to find a good therapist?

Here’s what I learned – it doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems. If you take the right steps and take advantage of the helpful tools you have around you, choosing a therapist can be simpler than expected.

The “How to Find a Therapist” Starter Kit

The first step in figuring out how to find a therapist is knowing where to look.

Let’s think about this for a moment, what’s the first thing most of us do when we want to find information about something? Of course we turn to the Google machines in our pockets.

Finding a therapist online is certainly a good starting point during your search for a qualified professional. As stated previously, however, the number of search results you receive can be enough to make your head spin.

Here are some steps to take on your journey to finding a good therapist:

1. Use an Online Directory of Therapists

One great way to start your search is through the Psychology Today Therapist Directory.

You can peruse the doctors in your area and look at their practice areas, proximity to your house, whether or not they take your insurance, and what their areas of specialty are. Each therapist will have a bio and photo, so you can see if you feel a connection before you even try them out.

I found a couple of doctors I was interested in and then went onto step two of my search: talking to my primary care physician.

2. Talk to Your Primary Care Physician

I mentioned my plans to start seeing a counselor and told my doctor about the therapists I’d found online. They provided me with honest opinions based on what they knew of each practitioner and gave me their own suggestions.

3. Talk to Friends and Family

I also spoke with a few friends and family who’d gone to a therapist before and got their opinions. They were able to talk to me about different kinds of therapy and what worked best for them.

I also learned a few things that I might not have considered.

For example, to some people, the gender of the therapist is important. If you are struggling with something like postpartum or post-weaning depression, it might be important to you to see a female therapist.

Considering what is best for you in terms of mental health care before jumping in is always a good way to go!

4. Call or Email Potential Therapists Before Making an Appointment

I would also recommend that you call or email potential therapists directly to get a feel for how they practice and if they will be a good fit for you. You can learn a lot from a practitioner in early interactions. 

Make sure to gather as much information as possible about how their sessions are run and what type of treatment you can expect.

how to find a therapist
Finding the right therapist for you means asking the right questions and doing your homework.

Important Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist

When it comes to probing a therapist for information, the process might seem counterintuitive. After all, aren’t they supposed to be the ones asking the questions?

Think of your first appointment as an interview.

Finding a therapist you feel good about is crucial to the success you’ll achieve during your therapy sessions. To help you make the best decision possible, there are several key questions you should always ask:

1. Does Insurance Cover Therapy?

While I hate to think a person should have to choose a therapist based on money, it’s an unfortunate reality of the U.S. healthcare system.

Counseling is expensive. In fact, the average cost of a single therapy session without insurance is approximately $100 – $200 in the United States.

Thankfully, though, insurance coverage can help with the financial burden of therapy, and some therapists even charge on a sliding scale based on your income.

Under the guidelines set forth in the Affordable Care Act, every insurance plan should provide some sort of coverage for counseling.

To take advantage of this assistance, it’s vital to speak with your insurance company and mental health counselor to determine whether your specific doctor is within range and how much of your sessions will be covered by your policy.  

2. What Type of Therapy Do You Think Will Help Me & How Does it Work?

When it comes to learning how to find a therapist, one key element you should consider is that not every mental health professional offers the same sorts of treatments. 

There are various types of counseling techniques available, such as:

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  2. Talk Therapy
  3. Psychodynamic therapy
  4. Cognitive therapy
  5. Behavior therapy
  6. Humanistic therapy
  7. Holistic therapy, and more

Ask your therapist more about their preferred therapies and have them explain how their processes work. Using this information, you can decide whether their unique approach seems like something that you’re comfortable with trying.

3. How Long Have You Been Practicing & What Are Your Certifications?

Don’t be afraid to ask for some credentials! You’re about to trust this person with your mental health, after all.

Just as there are different approaches to therapy, there are also various types of therapists. There’s no shame in asking what type of mental health certifications your chosen practitioner has earned.

Many licensed professional counselors are licensed clinical social workers, so if you see that credential, you can rest easy knowing that it is a valid one for therapists to have.

It’s also a good idea to find out how long they’ve been practicing, and if you can find reviews online, read them!

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4. Have You Worked with Other Clients Like Me?

When it comes to issues like stress and infertility, postpartum depression, parenting anxiety, or other potential problems, it helps to find a therapist who’s experienced in those areas.

While many certified therapists will have the ability to handle a wide range of general issues, you might feel more comfortable having the knowledge that the person you’re working with has helped other individuals in similar circumstances.

It can also be beneficial when seeking mental health care to find someone who’s faced similar problems themselves.

Recently, I was speaking with a friend who started counseling after her divorce. She worked with a few different people, but none of them seem to have a good understanding about the problems that come from post-divoce life and co-parenting.

She finally found a therapist who’d been divorced herself and it made a significant difference in the quality of the treatment she received.

This black and white image shows a woman grieving by a window.

5. Do You Offer Online Sessions?

When it comes to finding a therapist, online options are crucial right now. Between COVID-19 and the busyness of our day-to-day lives, it’s not always easy to make in-office sessions work.

Check with possible therapists and find out what type of online availability they have for sessions.

There are even online counseling platforms, such as Better Help, that might work well for your situation. Better Help also offers therapy at very reduced rates compared to traditional therapists, so it is a good option if you are looking for something more budget-friendly.

Choosing a Therapist that Feels Like the Right One

The number one rule when choosing a therapist is simply finding someone you feel good about.

Sure, you can analyze techniques, reviews, and certifications all day long but what works for one person might not be a good option for you. 

Go into your first session with an open mind, but don’t be afraid to continue your search if your gut is telling you the therapy relationship isn’t a good one.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Care of Your Mental Health

Amid the height of my struggle with post-weaning anxiety, I reached a point where I started thinking about how to find a therapist. Unfortunately, it took me longer than it should have to actually make an appointment.

I felt like admitting I needed counseling proved there was something seriously wrong with me.

I became terrified of learning something about myself that I wasn’t ready for.

But once I scheduled my first therapy session and met with my counselor, I realized what I’d been missing by waiting so long to look for mental health resources.

Choosing a therapist and taking control of my mental health was the first step in getting back my life. If you’re ever feeling lost or concerned about your mental state, don’t wait.

Let a licensed professional help you receive the quality treatment you deserve.

Do you have any additional tips on how to find a therapist you can trust?

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When I first told my mom the title of this blog, she looked at me incredulously and said, “Why undefining? Why not redefining?”

“Because motherhood is a role that’s been defined for far too many centuries,” I say. “And often not even by mothers themselves. It’s been prescribed and defined and changed and redefined so much that I don’t understand how anyone can feel authentic in their experience of it anymore. Not to co-opt another movement that’s happening right now, but time’s up. It’s time to learn to do this authentically, not according to prescription. For years, I’ve studied the history and theory of how motherhood has been defined, prescribed, turned into an institution with a set of rules. And I’m sick of it. It’s time to put that knowledge into action.”

“It’s perfect,” she replied.

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