How to Find and Choose a Therapist

Often trial and error are needed when finding the right therapist for you. It’s important to choose someone who you can connect with and trust.

About Therapy

When sadness, stress, and/or low self-worth persist daily, it’s probably time to seek help from a mental health professional.

Psychotherapy can be performed by various types of therapists including licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists or counselors, mental health counselors, rehabilitation counselors, music or art therapists, psychiatric nurses, psychoanalyst, and several others. When choosing a therapist, it is important that you find a psychotherapist that is properly trained and certified in the problems that you are dealing with. Psychologists and psychotherapists undergo rigorous schooling, training, and internships to receive their degrees. There are many highly-trained and qualified professionals, who undergo about eleven years of schooling to obtain their doctoral degree, so finding the right therapist is not a matter of education but of research and personal preferences.

Finding the Right Therapist

It is important to note that therapy and therapists are not one-size-fits-all. Oftentimes trial and error are needed to find the right therapist for you:

  1. Research: The first step to finding a psychotherapist is research. Whether this research takes the form of a google search or if it through personal connections or both, is up to you. If you choose the former route, help narrow your search by selecting specific keywords. “Psychotherapist near me” or “psychotherapist in New York” narrows the type of therapist as well as the location, creating a much shorter list of names and practices. If you find a therapist directory like TherapyTribe, you can do a location search from the homepage as well as select what you are looking for help with. The latter route involves asking your friends and family. This method is especially helpful if you know anyone who had previously or is currently undergoing therapy. It also widens your reach as they can join you in the search. If neither yield the expected results, consider online therapy or visiting your local mental health center or talking to your primary doctor for recommendations.
  2. Budget: Besides doing research to find a therapist, take the time to research the cost of therapy. Seeking help should not exceed your budget, that will only create more stress in your life. Help narrow your list down by setting a price range or budget you can comfortably work with.
  3. Consultations: When you’ve successfully compiled a list of possible candidates, it’s time to reach out and set your first appointment. Consults will serve as a meet and greet for both you and your potential therapist, to see if their approach and general atmosphere of their office and personality are compatible with yours. Remember: just because you set an appointment does not mean that you are under any obligation to continue treatment. Your level of comfort, safety, and eventually, trust is crucial to your growth. If you choose a therapist who you don’t feel comfortable around, that limits your trust in them, stifles the flow of dialogue, and ultimately affects your treatment.
  4. Be Open Minded: It’s important to think outside of the box. Contrary to popular belief, not all therapists in private practice make you recline in a chaise lounge and talk about your childhood. Although it may be important to reflect on your past, many misconceptions about therapists may unknowingly narrow the scope of your search. Many practicing psychologists work in institutions like primary schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, medical centers, or rehabilitation clinics.

Selecting the Best Therapist for you.

When it comes time to finally make a selection, here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

  • What are my main goals in therapy? What do I hope to accomplish?
  • Is it covered by my health insurance or work benefits?
  • If not, how much can I spend?
  • How far am I willing to commute?
  • Would I consider attending sessions with my spouse, significant other, or family members?

It is also helpful to compile a list of questions for your therapist as well:

  • First and foremost: are they accepting new clients?
  • Are they licensed in your state?
  • What is their approach to assessment, diagnosis, and treatment?
  • How many years of experience do they have?
  • What are their areas of expertise?
  • Do they have the ability to prescribe medication? Do they work with a psychiatrist who can?
  • Do they have any experience in dealing with patients with similar symptoms and/or mental illness?
  • What are their sessions like?
  • What policies do they have?

How Does Therapy Work?

Psychotherapy is a process of growth and self-discovery. It involves a continuous exchange of thoughts, ideas, and feelings to develop a deeper understanding of yourself and the problems that you face. Therapy should allow you to express yourself, to ensure a transparent and clear relationship with your therapist. Psychotherapy is a way for you to find answers and gain an understanding of the problems you are facing. This understanding is instrumental in giving you a new perspective on the problem, which makes it more manageable. Being able to understand yourself, why you react a certain way, what triggers certain responses from you, and what aspects of your life affects others, helps you to make new and better changes in your life. From understanding comes new and innovative methods of coping. It reduces symptoms and helps you to better deal with life’s challenges.

The key aspect of therapeutic treatment is reflection and gaining awareness of self. Through reflection, individuals can properly analyze their thoughts and actions with the help of a trained psychologist and to learn why they have certain reactions and how to overcome them.

Different Approaches to Therapy

Counseling: Counseling is the most common form of talk therapy. Counseling can go on anywhere between 6 to 12 sessions and involve engaged discussions about your life. This form of therapy is particularly helpful after a recent loss, with depression, anxiety and/or stress. During counseling, individuals are encouraged to share prevalent thoughts and emotions, so your counselor can help you to gain a better understanding of what you feel and why you feel that way.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is the most helpful to those suffering from anxiety and depression. It is also effective for people with eating disorders, OCD and PTSD. This form of therapy aims to change the way you think and behave, in order to better manage problems. The goal of each session is to categorize problems into smaller pieces and to analyze your thoughts and actions, in order to identify the ones that may be unrealistic or unhelpful. This way you can work towards changing them.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): The world around us affects us just as much, if not more than our personal thoughts. As humans, we are social beings and find joy, happiness, and fulfillment in the relationships we maintain, so social interaction becomes a fundamental part of our mental health. IPT  focuses on people with depression and relationship-based issues and takes an in-depth look at how the connections and relationships in the patient’s life affect their mental health issues. A therapist practicing IPT looks at recent major relationship changes, such as divorce, recurring conflicts with others, and grief. The goal of each session is to explore the emotional reactions you have in any of these situations and evaluate your personal expectations, how to communicate them, and analyzing and correcting any negative behaviors. Relationship and family therapy also fall under this category.

Group Therapy: In group therapy sessions, people with similar problems share their thoughts, emotions, and experiences in a supportive environment. Group therapy increases personal awareness of others who share similar problems and creates a comforting sense of community. The role of a therapist in group therapy is to encourage personal and collective reflection while encouraging growth and understanding.

Why is Therapy Important?

Everyone experiences tough and sometimes what seems like unbearable times in their lives. These times come with feeling overwhelmed, stressed, highly emotional and/or depressed. For many, these feelings pass with time. For others, those feelings are so persistent and recurring that they plague their daily lives. This is known as having a mental health issue. Over the last decade, our society has evolved, destroying stigmas and overcoming barriers for those suffering from mental health issues. The hope is that there is no shame when considering to seek help. Mental health issues, unlike many other problems, don’t simply pass with time. They are persistent and if left untreated, can affect many other aspects of your life. Seeking help from a certified professional is neither a sign of weakness nor is it shameful. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health states that more than 30 million Americans will need help managing problems they can’t handle on their own – so you are not alone.

Mental health issues affect millions of children and adults. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness while 1 in 25 live with a serious mental illness. Half of all chronic mental illness begins by the age of 14 and three-quarters by the age of 24. Many Americans live with depression, which has been named the number one leading cause of disability worldwide. These numbers, more than anything else, prove that mental illness is a widespread issue that needs serious attention. Millions of people suffer in silence due to a lack of diagnosis, fear of diagnosis, or undue shame.

Psychologists, psychotherapists, and general therapists have the joint goal of helping those who suffer from mental health issues to lead happier, more fulfilling and productive lives. Psychotherapy involves integrating scientific and medical methods while having a deep understanding of human behavior and psychology to help you overcome and manage the effects of mental illness.

The success of psychotherapy is heavily dependent on a safe, supportive, welcoming environment, along with an attentive therapist, and consistent collaboration. As it is a treatment grounded in dialogue, it requires open and honest communication. While psychotherapy is usually approached for solving a current problem, the skills and methods learned during sessions will help clients when they deal with future problems too.

When to Consider Therapy

It is important to note that going to therapy does not mean that you are weak or giving up on going at it alone. It takes a lot of courage and strength to realize that you need to reach out for professional help to cope with your personal struggles. Problems like depression, anxiety, phobias, anger, etc. will be better managed and dealt with while in the care of a professional. Therapy provides you with the tools and skills you need to deal with whatever problem you are facing.

Unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions and stigmas associated with seeking professional help. The reality of the situation is that people who suffer are not alone, and should never have to face their problems alone. Seeing a therapist will allow you to express yourself in a safe space, letting emotions that would otherwise fester, to be expressed in a helpful and meaningful way. Therapy sessions alone can be helpful because they encourage you to open up about problems that you might not have been dealing with that are showing up in your life. The first step to achieving progress, however, is connecting with someone that can help. Though first, you have to dig deep and realize that you need help.

Here are some signs that you should seek out for help:

  • You suffer from prolonged feelings of overwhelming anger, sadness, fear, emotional pain, or hopelessness. Regardless of what you do, these feelings are persistent and oftentimes mentally and physically debilitating.
  • Despite the continuous effort from not only you but friends and family, these issues are never resolved or diminished. Progress seems impossible.
  • Your mental and emotional state often render you physically incapacitated, diminish your appetite, and affect your mood.
  • You have an uncontrollable sense of worry and anxiety.
  • You contemplate either harming yourself and/or others.
  • Your mood strongly and negatively affects your day-to-day life and limits your productivity.

If any of the above apply to you, then it is time to take the first, but crucial step of consulting a psychotherapist. Search TherapyTribe – therapist directory to begin your search.

References:

  • Jonathan Shedler Ph.D. (2016). How to Choose a Therapist. Retrieved on April 22, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psychologically-minded/201604/how-choose-therapist
  • Jeremy Divinity (2019). Never Be Ashamed Of Seeking Help. Retrieved on April 17, 2019, from https://www.nami.org/Personal-Stories/Never-Be-Ashamed-of-Seeking-Help#
  • John M. Grohol, Psy.D. (2018). How to Choose a Therapist and Other Questions about Psychotherapy. Retrieved on April 22, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-choose-a-therapist-and-other-questions-about-psychotherapy/