- Hannah Whitley, LCSW
How to Pick a Therapist
So you’ve decided to take the leap and go to therapy. Congrats! This is a big step, and can feel really scary, but you have such an amazing opportunity for transformation ahead of you! Deciding to go to therapy is the hard part, so finding a therapist should be the easy part… right? Well, unfortunately, not always. In a time when mental health services are in higher demand than ever before, finding a therapist can be a challenge. However, don’t let the long waitlists scare you into thinking you have to stick with the first therapist that can get you in. Therapy at its core is a relationship, and not just any relationship; it’s a relationship that requires a lot of trust and vulnerability. So, finding a therapist that is the right fit for you is important! But, how do you do that? How do you know what therapist is the “right fit”? Whether this is your first time going to therapy, or you’ve been through a few therapists that just didn’t feel right, these tips are for you!
Figure out the Logistics First
A good starting point is to figure out the logistics. Will you be using insurance? If you don’t plan to use insurance, what is your budget? Do you prefer the convenience and comfort of telehealth? Or do you prefer the face to face connection of meeting in the office? What distance are you willing to travel to get to your appointments? Do you have the flexibility to meet during business hours, or will you need someone with evening or weekend availability? Other good things to consider are, do you have a preference for gender, race, religious background, or any other aspects of culture and identity that are important to you? Answering some of these initial questions will help to narrow down your pool of therapists that can meet your logistical needs.
Know your Goals
With the wide variety of training, practice modalities, and interventions out there, each therapist is going to have their own unique approach and expertise, and many therapists specialize in treating particular issues or using a particular treatment model. So, taking some time to reflect on what is bringing you to therapy as well as what you hope to get out of it can help you to find a therapist who will be able to meet your needs. Are you looking for someone who is more solution oriented? Are you looking to gain skills to help you navigate certain problems in your life? Are you looking to better understand yourself and your behavior, and gain insight into your past and present life? Take some time to reflect and consider what it is you want your therapy experience to look like.
Read those Bio’s and Take Advantage of Consultations
Ok, so you’ve sorted out the logistics and have an idea of some of your goals. Now it’s time to take the deep dive into reading those therapist bio’s. This is how you can start to get a feel for what therapists meet your logistical needs, as well as who may be able to support you in your goals. Therapist bio’s typically outline a bit about what types of clients they work with, what types of issues or presenting problems they treat, and their approach or areas of special training. Now, you still may be feeling a little bit confused or even overwhelmed, but that's ok. You don’t have to get it right on the first try, and it is perfectly acceptable to “shop around” for a therapist until you’ve found the right one! Some therapists offer free or low cost consultations, which can be a great opportunity to get a little bit more info and get a feel for the therapist's personality before committing to that first appointment.
Follow the 3 Session Rule
You’ve narrowed down your options, made some phone calls, and have an appointment scheduled. Yay, you're making progress! But remember, just because you’ve committed to scheduling with a therapist, doesn’t mean you’re committed long term. Sometimes we don’t really know if it will be a good fit until we’re in the room with that person. The 3 session rule is a good rule of thumb to follow before deciding if this is the therapist for you, or if it’s time to find a better fit. Oftentimes, initial sessions can feel a bit awkward, and involve gathering lots of information, so it can be hard to really gauge what it will be like to work with this person, and if your personalities jive. Usually, by 3 sessions in, you can have a pretty good idea if it feels like a good fit or not. Not feeling it, but not wanting to risk getting stuck on a waitlist? Talk with your therapist about how you’re feeling! Share what’s feeling off – opening up the conversation and providing feedback could help your therapist better understand what you need and get things moving in the right direction. However, sometimes if it isn’t a good fit, it just isn’t a good fit, and trying to force it can negatively impact the therapeutic process. Although it can be frustrating to have to continue your search, finding the therapist that just gets you can be pivotal to your treatment and healing.
How We Can Help
At Mind and Body Therapeutic Connections, we understand that finding a therapist can be a challenge right now. It can often feel overwhelming with so many options out there, and frustrating running into long waitlists or not receiving a call back. We recognize that taking the step to make that call is a big one, and we don’t want to leave you hanging during your time of need. That is why Mind and Body is now providing free Clinical Consultations to all potential new clients. During the clinical consultation potential clients will meet with Susann Navarra, an experienced Licensed clinician and founder of MBTC, to help identify their preferences and needs to increase the chances of matching them with a therapist who is the right fit the first time. Another benefit of our clinical consultation is that even if our therapists are not taking new clients, we may be able to connect you with other services to aid you in your treatment goals such as acupuncture, Reiki, nutrition counseling, massage therapy, fitness, yoga, or medication management.
You've Got This!
Picking a therapist can be a daunting task, but it’s important to remember that you deserve to find the therapist that is right for you! Don’t give up, and don’t get discouraged. I hope these tips can help you on the journey you’re getting ready to embark on!