If there is one thing I could change about the world, I would make going to therapy the coolest, most bestest, most desired attribute of all time. We are human beings, and we are imperfect, and that means as a whole we have crap we need to talk through. Knowing how to find a therapist isn’t even the only obstacle to getting help.
For most of the past decades, American society has looked down on those who go to psychotherapy and that really bugs me. Going to a doctor who specializes in your brain makes you smart, not broken. Recognizing that you may have an illness like anxiety or depression is wise, not embarrassing. Being prescribed medicine to manage these illnesses is healthy, not weak.
So, my smart, wise, health-seeking reader, I applaud you for deciding to explore how to find a therapist. Why should we put much time into this decision? The single most important factor in your therapy experience will be, duh, the actual therapist themself. That’s why it’s super important to have a good method in place.
I wanted to mention this option right up front, considering our Covid19 times. Since I already had a strong relationship with my therapist, we easily switched to video calls for safety. I imagine many other therapists are making similar adjustments, so keep that in mind while researching.
Another option is therapy that is 100% designed to be online. One company that I hear advertised on many podcasts is called BetterHelp. They look like they have great reviews and a simple on boarding process. I don’t have personal experience in receiving this form of therapy, but I would really suggest checking it out! Covid19 aside, this could be great if you have a busy schedule, a young child that you’d have to find care for (and you could do this while they nap), or even if leaving your house just feels like too much right now. Be sure to check them out! Ok, now let’s talk about how to find a therapist who operates in a physical practice.
M.A.,M.S., PH.d, M.D.
If you guessed those are degree indications, you are exactly right. The level of education your therapist has will influence the depth of their training, as well as their cost. You can learn more about this here.
Psychologist (Ph.d or Psy.D) – Has completed a 6-7 year program, focusing on clinical or counseling studies. Can assess and diagnose disorders. Cannot prescribe medicine.
Counselor./therapist (M.A., M.S.) – Master’s level, trained in a variety of techniques just not usually as much theory as those who go on to pursue a doctorate. Many are required to also aquire a state licencing designation such as LPC.
Psychiatrist (M.D.) – Start out as regular doctors with 4 years of med school after college. During their residency, they usually niche down to psychiatry. Can prescribe medicine. May or may not also practice psychotherapy techniques.
If cost is a consideration for you, as it is for me, I found that a Master’s level counselor is more affordable than someone with a doctorate and that helped steer me in that direction.
How to Find a Therapist – Specialties
Next, you can think about what sort of characteristics you want in a counselor. Are you more comfortable with a male or female therapist? Many religious people prefer counselors who share their faith and would provide guidance from that worldview. You may prefer a counselor who has specialized training in marriage or parenting, single life or chronic illnesses. Keeping in mind what specializations you prefer can help you narrow the field down.
There are many ways to start gathering names of potential therapists. If you attend a religious community, you could ask your place of worship to refer you to local therapists they work with. (As a quick side note, I do personally recommend going to see a true licensed counselor rather than doing counseling with a pastor or priest. Psychotherapy is complicated, and you want someone who has been trained properly.)
Another resource could be any friends who have mentioned being in therapy. They may have recommendations or warnings. I found my therapist through a referral through a trusted friend.
A simple internet search is also very helpful as a starting point. Type in your city + counselor/psychiatrist/psychologist + desired specialization. Filter through the results, reading reviews were available.
As you read through the websites, take notes on the ones that look promising. There are usually pictures and bios of each therapist along with their credentials and specializations. Note which ones feel comfortable and peaceful as you read about them. It is so important that you feel at ease with them, not intimidated! If the website lists financial information, note that down as well.
Next, it’s time to make some phone calls. You’ll probably talk with a receptionist or have to leave a voicemail for the therapist. Ask about availability, rates, location, etc. Unfortunately, popular therapists may not currently be accepting new clients, so keep an open mind and try not to get down. I say that, having been frustrated and upset in the past because I wanted to get in a lot sooner than was available. Take some deep breaths and keep in mind this is a journey. You want to have the best guide, and that is worth waiting for. This is all part of the process of how to find a therapist.
These phone calls are also helpful to learn how responsive the therapist is, how easy the office staff is to work with, etc. From my experience, they are usually very kind and helpful, but one call left me feeling rushed and unheard. That was not a practice where I felt I could feel at ease, so I crossed them off the list. Remember those positive affirmations you’ve been working on. You deserve to be treated with respect at all times.
By now, you’ve probably narrowed it down, found the best prospective fit for you, and confirmed an appointment! Congratulations! That first appointment will be a good time to evaluate if they are a good fit for you, and they will also be doing the same thing. Hopefully it’s a good match, and you can start your therapy. If not, go back to your list and work down to the next person. It’s important to get it right .
The Big Takeaway – How to Find A Therapist
What I really want you to take away from this article is not to lose heart once you’ve decided to start therapy. Stick to it, now that you know how to find a therapist, and put in the work. It’s the chance to transform your heart and mind, take it and run with it! You’ve got this!
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I am not a licensed therapist or mental health professional. If you are suffering and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.