How Do I Choose a Therapist?
Updated: Oct 5, 2021
You’ve taken the first big step: you know you’re ready to start therapy! Now you just have to find a therapist. That sounds easy enough, but when you start Googling therapists it’s easy to find yourself in an overwhelming sea of people to sift through. And things only get more complicated the more you read about the schools of thought, education, modalities, the list goes on! So, how do you find the right therapist for you? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Look for a therapist when you don't need one! That's right, I said it! Look for someone when it's not an emergency. Then, when something does come up, you know who to go to and you know that person will be helpful. And not for nothing, it’s hard to meet a perfect stranger and then process the worst day of your life with them.
How do I find some names of therapists in my area? Ask your friends and family first. They may have someone great to refer you to. I'd also suggest somewhere where you can read though profiles, like https://www.psychologytoday.com/us . There are filters so you can narrow down your options.
What is the difference between a LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Therapist), a LMSW (Licensed Master Social Worker), and the rest of the acronyms? Not a whole lot as long as they are licensed by the state. There are differences in educational focus, but at the end of the day it’s things like the therapist’s individual experience in the field, their expertise, and personality that will make them a good (or not so good) fit for you.
Does the type of therapy matter? Kind of. There are a ton of different modalities and schools of thought, and some are more specific than others. That’s why we make it easy at Groundwork. When you contact me, our initial conversation will give me a good idea of what you’re looking for, which will help me connect you to someone with the background, education and personality to best meet your needs.
Shop around. Price point matters. Make sure this works for you financially. If this is a stretch, you run the risk of therapy becoming another stressor, or you may not go as often as you need to.
What if I find a therapist I want to work with, but they don't have openings? Ask to be put on a wait list. If they don't have a wait list, ask when they expect to have openings and check back.
Start with a consultation. Most therapists offer this at no cost via phone. From there, it will still take a couple of sessions for you to know if this is the right therapist for you. Which leads me to my next point…
You are not stuck with the first therapist you meet! Or any therapist for that matter. If it's not working for you, let them know. It might be something that can be talked through. If not, start looking for other options, because...
The most important thing is the relationship. If you don't feel comfortable talking with this person, things won’t get very far.
I cannot stress it enough: if you are considering starting therapy, then it's time to start therapy! In fact, it can make the hard times a little easier just knowing you have someone on hand. A therapist is like your primary care physician; you may only go to see them now and then, but when something goes wrong, you’ll know just who to call.