Finding The Right Therapist: Advice & Resources

Finding a mental health provider can be difficult–but it is not impossible. Mental health and emotional well-being is a touchy subject that is often stigmatized. Approximately one in five adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness, but only 41 percent of adults with a mental illness received treatment, according to a 2015 survey.

It is important to keep discussions around mental health going, to break the stigma and bring those experiences to the spotlight. In many situations, a support of a mental health care provider can my crucial to overcoming it. Read on for some advice and resources that will help you start your mental health journey.

If You Feel Comfortable, Ask Friends And Family For Recommendations


Many therapists won’t see you as a client if they also see your family or friends. But, therapists will often have colleagues who they use for references. It can be comforting to know that your therapist has a connection to a provider who a friend or family likes. Additionally, your primary care physician can be a good resource to help you find a mental health care provider.

Pay Attention To Their Specialties


This may not necessarily apply to you, but if you have been diagnosed with a disorder, or are struggling with an eating disorder, addiction, or trauma it is important to find someone who specializes in treating that condition. Many mental health providers have profiles across the web on sites like PsychologyToday and HealthGrades that list their specialties. Be picky when it comes to this.


Don’t Focus On WebMD


The internet is a great way to do some research on a mental health provider, such as to find someone who takes your insurance, profiles, reviews or experience. But be mindful that one bad review of the provider shouldn’t sway you away. Everyone likes something different, and you may like a provider that someone else didn’t like. Sites like WebMD, ZocDoc, etc. are helpful but take some of the reviews with a grain of salt, unless you see something completely unacceptable.

Ivy League Resumes Doesn’t Equal The Best


Some people may tell you that the credentials for a provider matter the most, but oftentimes you just need to click with someone. You definitely want a provider who is licensed and completed a specialty program, but someone who is an Ivy League grad may not always match your personality or needs. Trust your intuition when deciding if you match up with your therapist.


Do A Brief Phone Interview


Before you book an appointment with a therapist, call them. Interview them a bit to get a good sense of their style. PopSugar has some great suggestions of questions you could ask:

  1. What is their approach to therapy?
  2. Ask what a session is like. Do they just let you spill your guts out? Do they offer advice? Will they focus on why or what is causing you to feel a particular way?
  3. Have they had experience with the mental health issue you’re having (such as feeling sad, stressed, people problems, etc.)
  4. What can be the expectations of your emotional well-being progress? Is this therapy long or short term? There are many different types of therapist and mental health providers, it is good to align yourself with what they think with your goals. Some therapy may involve diving deep into your past, which can often cause your mental health to decline in the short-run. But other providers may only focus on the future and how to stop your negative or unhealthy thinking patterns.

Check out this article for some more questions you could ask your mental health care provider.

What To Expect In The First Session


Once you’ve found a provider who you like and have had a phone call with them, you’ll have your first session. Your provider will have what is called an intake session. You’ll be asked questions about your background, medical history, and explain why you are looking for a mental health care provider. Also, don’t expect to unload everything you are carrying during this first session, there just isn’t time. But don’t worry, you’ll get there and it will be worth the time that it takes to.


Don’t Feel Discouraged If It Isn’t A Match


Finding a therapist who is right may some time and often a little bit of luck. Please don’t give up if you don’t find your match. If you further think that one-on-one therapy may not be for you, don’t be afraid to ask your current provider for recommendations (such as group therapy). Providers usually won’t be offended if you choose to move on from them, and will often be eager to help you find an option that may work best for you.

If you feel comfortable, talk to your friends and family about your struggle. Keeping other people in on the loop of your search can help. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to people about it, journal about it and keep track of what you like and don’t like.

Use This Resource To Find Affordable Therapy


Many providers have a sliding scale that they can use to determine the cost per session along with your insurance. But unfortunately, there are many health care plans out there that don’t offer any type of coverage and if you can’t afford it, you can get stuck. This resource can help you to find affordable or free therapy in your state and is regularly updated.

If you’re in college, your campus will often have psychological services on campus that are free. The services differ based on the campus, but they are there to help. Even if you are not a college student, you can call college’s psychological services for resources and references in that area.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) whether or not you are in an immediate crisis. The phone counselors are trained to talk about anything and provide you with resources for therapy. They can often be helpful just to talk something through, you can call regularly. If you prefer not to talk on the phone, you can access an online chat on their website, or text by texting HOME to 741741.

While you’re seeking out therapists, check out our article on some great mental health apps that may help you, although they do not replace professional help. Your lifelong journey to mental health can be long, but you don’t have to do it alone. Start your path to finding a provider today.

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