Find a Good Therapist! We often hear that advice but rarely are we provided with good adive how to do this? When we want to improve our bodies we pretty much know where to find help. This time of year the gyms are full and the meeting rooms at Weight Watchers are packed. But what do we do when we want to improve our inner selves, our relationships, to find help with depression or anxiety?
10 Ways to Find a Good Therapist
I want to assist you to find the right therapist because making the decision to find help is hard enough. Why should you have to get even more stressed out hunting for the right therapist? I can only imagine it’s like searching for a needle in a haystack. So here are a few tips:
- Forget the yellow pages. A yellow pages listing is expensive so a lot of good people aren’t there. I’m not. Plus there is no regulation of who can list.
- Ask a professional you already work with and trust. Your accountant, lawyer, dentist, physician – any professional you have a relationship with who honors your confidentiality is a good resource. These people all run businesses as well as provide services, as do many psychotherapists in private practice. They are well connected in the community and refer to each other all the time.By the way, when asking anyone for a referral to a mental health therapist you do not have to go into the details of why you’re looking for a someone unless you want to. It’s enough just to say, “I’m having some problems and I’d like to consult a therapist about it. Do you recommend anyone?”
- Ask friends or family members if they can recommend someone.
- Use a known therapist as a resource. If you have a friend or a friend’s friend who’s a therapist, ask them. Therapists refer to one another all the time. They will understand that you don’t want to see them (for whatever reason, you don’t have to say) but you want a recommendation from them. In other words, even if it doesn’t feel right going to your sister’s therapist, if your sister really likes her therapist he or she could probably give you a couple of names of good, qualified therapists in the community.
- Use resources at work. Many places of employment have what’s called an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). These services might be in-house or out-sourced but the purpose of EAPs is to provide emotional support and counseling for employees in complete privacy and as part of the employee’s benefit package. EAPs are often part of the Human Resource department so ask there if your company has an EAP and how to access it. Usually you would see a counselor at the EAP for a set number of sessions (no charge to you) and if you want to continue they will refer to a therapist in the community who will take your insurance.
- Schools and Universities are resources. Your child’s school is likely to have a school counselor or nurse and that person knows therapists in your district to refer you or your child to, if that is what’s needed. Universities and colleges are investing more and more in their campus mental health services. Counseling Centers (often part of Health Services under the Student Affairs department) on campus have qualified psychologists and social workers on stand-by to help with a wide range of situations for current students. Like EAPs, if you need longer term services beyond what they can provide they will see to it that you are linked properly for your continuity of care. As an alum you should be able to access the counseling center as a resource for a referral.
- Use your insurance company. You may be lucky and have an insurance company with a truly helpful customer service department. If they do their job right, they should be able to suggest therapists who participate on their panel (which means they have been vetted from here to eternity for all the right credentials) and who specialize in what you need.
- Use the Internet. The difference between the web and the yellow pages is that, for the therapist, listing on reliable websites is not nearly as expensive AND reliable sites require a minimum of professional qualifications to be listed. Psychology Today and Goodtherapy.org probably have the most comprehensive listings in the US. They both contract with other trustworthy sites like WebMD and iVillage to provide their lists to them. A therapist can’t be listed on PT or Goodtherapy unless they can prove they have a legitimate advanced degree in their discipline and an up to date professional license or certification.
- A good listing provides you with information regarding the professional’s qualifications, what areas of expertise they may have, how long they’ve been in practice. They should also have practical stuff posted like phone numbers, where their office is located, office hours and whether or not they accept your insurance if that is important to you. Here’s my listing as an example.
Do not look for a therapist on craigslist!?
Do a Google search. Once you have a few names go ahead and google them. If they have a blog or a website, explore them. Often you can get a sense of who they are by what they write or what is written about them. Just keep in mind that many good, well-qualified therapists are not on the web. Not finding them there is not a reason to rule them out.
- Don’t limit yourself. Don’t set limits on yourself unnecessarily by title or by logistics. I refer to as many social workers as I do psychologists. Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT’s) are new to New York but in California, where they’ve been on the scene for some time, I know several who are excellent counselors. Studies show that once c
ore requirements are met, the effectiveness of a therapist is not dictated by what advanced degree they have.
Skype and telephone. If you live in an area where, as hard as you’ve tried, you can’t find a professional locally to help you, you can always turn to tele-sessions using the telephone or Skype. While Skype counseling is a specialized service on the cutting edge, there are therapists world-wide providing on-line counseling. Skype sessions are available to anyone anywhere as long as the technology is available and a common language is spoken. This service has been a particular boon to Americans over-seas who crave counseling from a familiar voice stateside. I provide Skype sessions to people around the world and find it very rewarding work.
One last thought in your search for a therapist: Try to gather at least two or three names from any given source. That way you can cross-reference, and have choices if one doesn’t work out, moved out of town, retired or one just doesn’t suit you. You have a right, even a responsibility to yourself, to be picky.
Do you have more ideas that would be helpful to people looking for a therapist? Please let us know!
Photo courtesy of Marcelo Colmenero
This was written by:
Elvira G. Aletta, PhD, Founder & CEO
Executive & Personal Coaching, Individual & Relationship Counseling
Life gave Dr. Aletta the opportunity to know what it’s like to hurt physically and emotionally. After an episode of serious depression in her mid-twenties, Dr. Aletta was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease that relapsed throughout her adulthood. While treatable, the cure was often as hard to bear as the disease. Later she was diagnosed with scleroderma, another chronic illness.
Throughout, Dr. Aletta battled with anxiety. Despite all this, Dr. Aletta wants you to know, you can learn to engage in life again on your terms.
Good therapy helped Dr. Aletta. She knows good therapy can help you. That’s why she created Explore What’s Next.
Today Dr. Aletta enjoys mentoring the EWN therapists, focusing on coaching and psychotherapy clients, writing and speaking. She is proud and confident that Explore What’s Next can provide you with therapists who will help you regain a sense of safety, control and joy.
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Hi Dr. Aletta,
I enjoyed reading your article. Finding the right therapist is the most important decision a person can make in the therapeutic process. I am the founder of a site that helps people find a compatible therapist called http://www.MyTherapistMatch.com. We match clients and therapists based on 23 criteria including personality type, communication style and issue of concern. I’d love to hear what you think of it.
While I certainly could use a good therapist, I don’t pursue better mental health through this practical route as I am not much of a talker, especially about myself.
Instead, I popped in here to ask for recomendations of good books on bipolar illness, especially ones that include manic psychotic breaks. I have never found one that describes the illness in ways very similar to how I have experienced it (either personal stories or expert advice on managing symptoms.)
If I may reply to “lc” regarding a book on bipolar, I saw Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison speak on Oprah. If I understood her correctly, she is also bipolar and her book is called An Unquiet Mind. She was very passionate and knowledgeable both professionally and personnally on this. I would imagine her book may be also. Blessings.
Dear Nancy, You are the second person in two weeks to recommend “The Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness.” It sounds like a ‘must read’! From what I understand Dr. Jamison does indeed have bi-polar disorder. Thank you for the suggestion.
Dear lc, This is a good question. Nothing definite comes to mind at the moment. I will ask around. Maybe another reader could make a recommendation?
I am a practicing psychologist, and based on my own experience in how most clients come to see me, this is an excellent summary. Most clients that I see are through referral sources that the client already knows (friends, other therapists, family, school counselors, lawyers, pediatricians/family doctors, etc.) After that, online searches, mostly through Psychology today are quickly becoming a good resource. Great article!
Jamie Rishikof, Psy.D.
Thank you Dr. Aletta, I’m certain this guidance will benefit as many people as it can reach, so I’m sharing it on Facebook and Twitter because I think the world would be a better place if we all got the therapy we need. But I agree with you, finding the right person is work and when you’re not feeling your best, sometimes you don’t have the energy to do MORE work. Thanks for making it easy.
And people can ask their financial planners for referrals to therapists, too. The concept of financial therapy is really taking hold.
You are so right! I am hopeful that the stigma of finding help and support through therapy is loosing its grip. Thank you so much for sharing this article.