Searching for a therapist? A quick therapist finder guide
Deciding to go to therapy is not always an easy decision, but it's one that can greatly impact your life for the better. That’s why it can be important to know how to find a good therapist. Many people experience mental health challenges at some point in their lives, and choosing to find a therapist, counseling psychologist online therapy service can be one of the best decisions you can make. It can be possible to find a local mental health professional or connect with therapists online. It’s usually helpful to consider the professional’s education, experience, cost and location when you begin to search for your therapist.
Read on to learn more about how to find and contact a therapist who can help you to improve your quality of life.
However, it's generally a good time to reach out for help when you find that you are experiencing challenges with your mental health that impact your daily life. This is generally indicated by disruptions caused by either physical or mental symptoms. For example: Symptoms can occur when people are losing sleep because of anxiety disorder symptoms, they have a hard time getting to work because of depression or substance use, or they are experiencing symptoms of a more serious and complex mental health disorder—such as hearing voices or seeing things that aren't there.
Despite the general understanding of psychology today, many people might think that their problems aren’t serious enough, so they may continue to deal with them on their own instead of seeking help. To this, we want to reiterate: Your symptoms and experience don't have to reach a certain level for you to qualify to get help from a therapist (either via in-person services or with therapists online). Please know that if you are struggling with your mental health, then it is likely time to find a therapist and get the help that you need.
As you begin to find a therapist, you may consider a range of pre-qualifications to help you narrow your search. This can look like area of specialization, gender, education and relevant experience.
If you’re not sure what to look for, it’s no problem. We’ve listed out a few areas of focus to pay attention to below; helping you select the best therapists out of the prospect pool who can help you improve your quality of life.
The requirements that you may look for in a therapist or mental health professional often depend on the type of therapy you’re seeking. After all—someone looking for support with eating disorders or substance use may not need to look for someone who specializes in family therapy (or a marriage and family therapist.)
The wide range of possible needs makes it important for many to review a therapists’ educational background to ensure that you’re getting what you need. For example, if you think that you're going to need medication to help deal with your mental health challenges, then you may want to see a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are trained medical doctors that specialize in mental health. Because they have been through medical school, they can write prescriptions. However, please note that medication is not always necessary or recommended.
On the other hand, many people might look for a therapist, find a psychologist or work with a psychiatrist for their therapy sessions, depending on their scope of need. While a psychiatrist generally manages the medical side of mental health, such as the chemicals in your brain, a psychologist usually helps with the emotional side of mental health, including your thoughts.
Other mental health professionals, called therapists, are usually educated with a master’s degree and may have a degree in social work or counseling. They are normally educated and trained to practice and provide talk therapy or psychotherapy. An example of a therapist at this level is an LMFT, or a licensed marriage and family therapy specialist.
In general, it’s best to ensure that any mental health professional you’re considering has an applicable degree and is licensed to practice in their state.
The next requirement you may look for in this category is the therapist’s clinical experience or area of specialization. A newer therapist may work under the direction of a more experienced therapist, so just because someone is new does not necessarily mean that they will not be a good fit for you. You may also want a therapist that has experience working with people with similar concerns or mental health challenges.
Another thing that many people may want to consider when choosing a mental health professional is how much the sessions are going to cost them. If you have health insurance, there's a chance that your insurance company may provide coverage for mental health sessions. However, if they do, know that there may be potential requirements to qualify, and it may only cover a certain number of sessions. It can be helpful to speak with a service representative with your insurance company (if you have one) to find out the details of your exact plan.
If your insurance does not cover mental health services, there may still be other ways that you can save money on therapy sessions. The first may be to look for mental health professionals in your location that offer a sliding scale for payment. This generally means that the therapist will adjust the charge for your appointment based on your income level. Sliding scales often make therapy sessions possible for some people who wouldn't be able to afford them otherwise.
Another option is to look into online therapy, which can come with lower costs (and sometimes offers financial aid).
When choosing a therapist, you may wish to consider their location as well. Some forms of therapy will have you going to appointments more than once a week. This means you will likely want to consider where the office is located and how easy or difficult it will be for you to get there.
For those people who do not want to have to attend therapy sessions in person, there can be other options for meeting with therapists online. This can also be convenient if you cannot find a suitable therapist in your local area, or if you don’t have a reliable method of transportation to get to therapy sessions.
BetterHelp is known to many as an online therapy platform that is available in all 50 states, everywhere from popular cities like New York City, Chicago and San Francisco to less-populated rural areas in the southwest. Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp are working to enable people to get therapy regardless of their location.
To get started with BetterHelp, you first need to create your profile. After your profile is complete, it is time to find the right therapist for you from the online directory of experienced professionals. All you have to do to get a list of therapists near you is to select your city and press enter to find therapists doing business in the area. You can check out their credentials and choose the therapist that you feel is the best match.
Research shows that online therapy can be an effective method of treating different symptoms related to mental health. In one broad-based report, researchers examined the overall efficacy of online therapy interventions. The study concluded that online therapy can be as effective as traditional in-person treatment, and that online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often an especially useful modality. Online platforms can eliminate many common barriers to treatment, including high costs, geographical and time constraints and perceived stigma.
With online therapy, you can connect with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your own home. You may quickly make or modify your appointments so that you’re creating a schedule that works for you. An online therapist can also provide you with valuable guidance on the path to better mental health.
Therapy can make a notable difference in your mental health and life in general, so it can be crucial to know how to find a therapist who will meet your needs and help you achieve your goals. Looking at a therapist’s education, experience, cost, and location can help you determine whether they will be a good fit for you. You might find a suitable therapist or other mental health professional in your local area or online. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.
How do I find the right therapist?
If you’re unsure where to look for a therapist, you may want to start by searching through online databases of licensed practitioners. For example, you can find accredited members of the American Psychological Association through their locator tool, complete with detailed listings discussing their expertise. Nonprofit organizations like the National Register of Health Service Psychologists, or government agencies like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), offer similar search tools.
You can also connect directly with therapists online through web-based therapy platforms such as BetterHelp. Internet therapy can often be a faster and more convenient way to get help from trained and licensed therapists than searching for in-person treatment.
It’s often a good idea to narrow down your search to mental health experts with experience treating your specific symptoms. You’ll often find a therapist’s specialty listed along with their credentials. Once you locate a few candidates, it may be helpful to talk with them over the phone before committing to therapy sessions. That way, you can gauge how they conduct themselves in professional interactions, and hopefully get at least some idea of whether you might be able to connect with them.
Can a therapist help you find yourself?
In addition to treating symptoms of mental illness, psychotherapy can help clients gain greater insight into their personal strengths, feelings, and behaviors. It may also assist in defining life goals and uncovering a sense of purpose in life. Some therapeutic approaches, such as logotherapy and existential therapy, may be particularly well-suited for clients interested in exploring questions of meaning, purpose, and direction.
How do I interview a new therapist?
Writing down a few relevant questions before meeting with a prospective therapist can help you have a more productive conversation. It’s often best to start by asking some general questions about their education, training, and licensure. A good therapist should generally be able to describe why they’re qualified to help you.
Asking whether they’re trained in specific evidence-based practices, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety or prolonged exposure therapy for PTSD, may be helpful. You’ll also probably want to ask them about their fee structure, what forms of insurance they accept, and other important financial considerations.
Once they’ve provided those details to your satisfaction, you can ask some more open-ended questions to help figure out whether this therapist is a good match for you. Possible examples include:
- What is your approach to treatment?
- How do you identify progress in therapy?
- Have you treated patients like me before?
- What kinds of clients do you typically work best with?
- How would you address my symptoms?
As they respond to your questions, you’ll generally want to pay attention to their professional demeanor as well as the answers they give. It’s often important to ask yourself “Is this someone with whom I can build a respectful, trusting therapeutic relationship?”
How do I choose a couples therapist?
Before you start searching for a couples therapist, it’s often important to have an open conversation with your partner about what specifically is impacting your relationship. While it might seem obvious to you what the problem is, they may have complaints or worries of their own that hadn’t occurred to you. Defining the problem may make it easier to locate a counselor who meets your needs. It could also improve your odds of reconciling successfully in therapy.
Next, you can try searching for marriage or relationship therapists who specialize in addressing the specific stressors and conflicts you’re facing. Using keywords like “new parents”, “intimacy difficulties”, or “infidelity” will likely make it easier to find the right person.
Once you’ve found potential therapist candidates, it’s likely a good idea to interview them as described above. It’s probably a good idea to ask questions about how they handle the unique dynamics of couples counseling, such as:
- How do you address issues related to secrets between partners?
- What do you see as most important to a healthy relationship or marriage?
- How do you handle conflict and arguments within a therapy session?
- What is your approach when one partner seems less willing to follow the advice given in therapy?
- Have you treated many couples with this issue before? If so, how many of them reconciled or saw improvement?
- When, if ever, would you advise a couple to separate?
Does psychotherapy work and how can we know?
Because there are so many different forms of psychotherapy, it can be difficult to discuss the effectiveness of this type of treatment as a whole. However, many evidence-based talk therapies have shown considerable effectiveness in both research trials and ordinary practice. Their ability to help is assessed in terms of both patient self-reports and clinical assessments of mental health symptoms. These treatments include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Psychodynamic therapy
- Acceptance and commitment therapy
- Prolonged exposure therapy
- Dialectical behavior therapy
- Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
Some of these treatments may be better suited to certain individuals or certain kinds of mental illness.
It can be important to define your goals when beginning therapy and keep track of your progress toward those goals. Taking note of things like the frequency and severity of your symptoms, your ability to function well in everyday situations, and your overall life satisfaction can help you gauge whether or not therapy is working well for you.
What should I tell my therapist the first time we meet?
During your first meeting with your therapist, it’s often helpful to talk about your big-picture goals — both for therapy and for your life in general. You might also want to talk a bit about your current life situation, such as your career, living situation, and major relationships. Discussing any challenging emotions or mental health symptoms, and the coping strategies you’re using, can also help your therapist assess your individual psychology and what forms of treatment might help.
How should I start talking to a therapist?
When you first talk with your therapist, you may be uncertain about where to start. Sometimes it can help to begin with where you are right now. You can start by explaining how you’re currently feeling and what made you join therapy.
Don’t worry if you’ve already discussed some of this before your session. It can serve as a jumping-off point for a more detailed discussion.
If you’re still feeling uncomfortable opening up, you could start by acknowledging that. Talking about the emotions that arise when you try to discuss your mental health can be another fruitful avenue for conversation. Another option might be to review recent events in your life. As you talk, you may find that examples of your mental health challenges come up naturally.
What questions do therapists ask?
Therapists often ask questions designed to prompt discussion of the kinds of topics discussed above. Common questions at the start of treatment include:
- What prompted you to seek therapy?
- How have you been dealing with your difficult thoughts, emotions, or behaviors?
- Have you ever received psychotherapy before? If so, what was your experience like?
- What do you hope to get from therapy?
- What kinds of important relationships do you have in your life, and what are they like?
- Have you recently (or ever) had thoughts of hurting yourself or committing suicide?
Note that answering “yes” to the last question doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be hospitalized. Your therapist will likely ask some follow-up questions to assess the severity of any suicidal thoughts and determine how best to help you. If you’re currently grappling with thoughts of this kind, you can reach empathetic volunteers at any time by dialing 988 to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
What happens when you go to a therapist?
When you first consult with a therapist, you’ll likely need to provide some pragmatic information at the beginning. For example, you may have to fill out insurance paperwork and discuss scheduling and expectations.
Next, they’ll typically ask some broad questions to help determine what you’re most interested in getting help with and what goals you’d like to achieve from therapy. Based on this information, a therapist will generally propose an individualized treatment plan for you and confirm that you’d like to proceed. This plan may be updated and modified as you go, but discussing it in broad strokes now will help you understand what to expect as you move forward.
Beyond that, the details of therapy will depend on your specific needs and treatment goals. You’ll likely spend a fair amount of time discussing your symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, as well as evidence-based strategies for managing them. Some therapists may also ask you about your past experiences or suggest “homework” to help you address your mental health challenges outside of therapy.
Is it okay to ask your therapist personal questions?
Yes, you can ask your therapist questions about their personal life. It’s natural for many people to want to get a sense of who their treatment provider is as a person, and some research suggests that personal divulgence from therapists (when handled correctly) can improve treatment outcomes.
However, it can be crucial to respect your therapist’s right to personal and accept that there may be details they don’t wish to divulge. And certain kinds of questions, such as explicit inquiries about their sex life, can cross the line into harassment. Maintaining a respectful, professional atmosphere in therapy can be crucial to its success.
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