Two decades ago, people generally received referrals to mental health professionals from one of two places — their family doctor or the yellow pages. A few people might have felt comfortable enough asking a friend or family member about their therapist, if they knew they had one. But mostly because of the stigma and the lack of information about mental health conditions, individuals were afraid to discuss these kinds of concerns with others.
Today, things are very different. There are a dozen places you can go online to find a therapist, people talk more freely about their own therapists and being in therapy, and HMOs and health insurers have large networks of qualified and experienced professionals. We went from the dark ages of referrals to an enlightened age, where an individual has almost too much choice.
Referrals from people you know and trust will tend to be more meaningful to an individual. So talking to a friend or family member about their therapist might help you better understand whether or not that person would be helpful to you. Your family physician might also know professionals they respect and trust. Since a lot of people’s healthcare choices will be decided based upon whether that professional is a part of their healthcare plan or not, check with your insurance or healthcare provider to get a list of approved professionals.
Online databases are also a valuable resource to research, as they will often provide a little more information than your local yellow pages. Some online psychotherapist databases allow the professional to enhance their listing with additional information, such as experience, educational degrees, and ways they prefer to work. This can be helpful to people looking for professionals who have specific backgrounds or experience with specific kinds of issues or disorders.
Keep in mind that throughout this process, it’s best to keep an open mind and not to necessarily go with the first professional you see. Choosing a professional that’s going to be helpful to you and your needs is often much like a job interview process — you need to find one that’s going to work with you and for you, and that you feel most comfortable with.