Finding the right therapist
Tips on finding your best-fit mental health professional
Why is finding the right therapist so important?
Therapy is a two-way street. For therapy to be successful, both you and your therapist need to be comfortable with each other: it’s a collaborative task. In many medical fields, you may select a provider who is the “best” in their field—perhaps someone who provides the newest, groundbreaking treatment. Or, someone who graduated from the top of their class and has won numerous awards. In the mental health field, it is not so simple. Therapy is a much more personal matter—a therapist may be best for one person, but not for someone else. To build a strong relationship between yourself and your therapist, you need to find someone who you can connect with and feel safe around.
If this is your first time looking for a therapist, it may be difficult to find one that suits your needs. To help you find that right therapist, I have included some tips below.
1. Identify what type of therapist you need
You may not realize there are so many options available.
What is your specific issue or condition that needs to be treated?
There are many different titles for licensed and trained mental health professionals, which often represent their area of specialty. While this may be the case for certain therapists, others’ names may not be so telling. If you have a specific condition that needs to be treated, such as an eating disorder, it’s important that you find someone who directly specializes in eating disorders. Many mental health professionals have a wide range of training, but certain conditions or issues are best suited for those with a depth of expertise in those areas.
Do you need medications?
Only some mental health providers can prescribe medications, which generally includes psychiatrists, primary care doctors, and nurse practitioners. While it may not be so clear whether or not you will need medications as part of your treatment plan, it is important to realize that many therapists are unable to prescribe medications.
2. Find out about your therapist's background
Finding someone who understands you and makes you feel comfortable when discussing your personal and vulnerable feelings may not be an easy task. Often times, finding someone who shares an identity with you—whether it be race/ethnicity, gender/sexuality, religion, or culture—can be so crucial to being able to truly understand your perspectives.
3. What does your insurance cover?
Check what mental health providers are covered by your insurance plan. Certain policies may only cover a limited range of mental health provider types, since fees for different mental health providers will differ.
If you are having difficulties with finding providers covered by your insurance, you may find it helpful to look through nonprofit, government or mental health organization websites that provide listings of providers in your area. They may give you the option to filter for lower cost options.