Many people start looking for a therapist while they are experiencing significant levels of distress, sadness, troubling symptoms, or other difficulties. While we are in this state, we simply want someone who can help us and hopefully make us feel better. However, just as you would want to meet and discuss things with several professionals for home repairs or try out several models prior to buying a car, it is a good idea to gather information and check out a few psychotherapists to ensure that you are selecting someone with whom you are well matched. Follow the steps below to improve your chances of selecting the right therapist for you.
Consider Your Specific Needs
Many people overlook the need to carefully consider what they are hoping to address in therapy prior to selecting a provider. This is not such a bad thing if you are looking for support with challenges that most therapists commonly treat, such as conflict in a particular relationship or in helping you adjust to specific life-changes such as a divorce or a relocation to a new geographical region. However, if you have special needs or have experienced a severe or long-term stressful situation — such as abuse or neglect as a child, or exposure to traumatic stress — it is important to look for a therapist who has relevant training and professional experience. Similarly, if you have repeatedly sought support and/or tried therapy without success, you may need someone who specializes in a type of therapy that is better matched to your needs.
The saying “like attracts like” applies when it comes to finding a therapist. If you have close friends or coworkers who rave about a particular therapist, a reasonable first step is to ask if they would share the therapist’s contact information. This may be especially useful if the other party has successfully sought support for a difficulty that is similar to yours. If you worry that the other party may feel uncomfortable with your request, voice your concerns, and ask for feedback. Both of you should keep in mind, there is no need to worry about the therapist sharing information about you with the other party since legally (and ethically) therapists cannot share your information. The only exception to this law is if there is risk of serious harm to a client or another party. If you and your friend are comfortable seeing the same provider, consider the therapist as a potential provider for you. It is still a good idea to complete additional research, keeping in mind your goal of selecting a short-list of between perhaps two or three clinicians.
Give Online Directories a Try
There are a growing number of psychotherapist directories available via the internet. A quick Google search for “therapist directories US” produced 669,000 results. These directories can make your search much easier as you can quickly identify local providers, the types of therapy each practices, the insurances accepted and their fee schedules. This also makes it easier to learn if a given therapist has specialized skills and experience that might be particularly helpful to you. It also means that you can undertake research without needing to talk to someone face-to-face about it, which can be a bit daunting.