Congratulations on realizing you need a therapist. Ok, that sounded weird, but hear me out. You are starting a support team for everything that you’ve been dealing with solo, things can only get better. A therapist will leave you better prepared for the future and help you work through all the negatives from your past. I’ll share with you how to pick a therapist that’s right for you.
Learn the difference between therapy and psychiatry and determine which you may need.
Check Insurance Coverage
First things first, find out if your health insurance covers mental health, most do, but some policies do not, others cover a certain number of visits.
Check with Friends or Family
I’m extremely open about seeing a therapist and I have helped a lot of friends and co-workers navigate this process. If you have someone like me in your life, go find that person and ask if they have any recommendations.
No worries if you aren’t comfortable asking around about therapy.
Hit the Internet
Check with your insurance carrier to see which therapist takes your insurance, then hit up Google (or Bing if you are into that) to do a little research. Do a search for the therapist you got from your insurance company. Similarly, you’ll follow the same process as you would before dating someone, stalk them on the internet. Okay, maybe that was just me. Thankfully, my creeper skills also make excellent research skills.
Check out the different sites that rate doctors, read the reviews. Check out your potential therapists’ credentials and what they specialize in. For example, if you have cognitive behavior issues, bi-polar disorder, or a personality disorder check to see if that’s something they can help with. Some therapists are even on Google My Business, so feedback may be easy to find.
Make the Call
If you are really feeling brave, you can go old school and call the therapist to see if they are a good fit for you. To be honest, this is a great way to see if you get a good vibe from them or not. As a side note, you need to determine if gender will matter to you. I was personally more comfortable with a woman therapist, so I started my research by picking a gender.
Determine what you can afford to pay. If your insurance covers your cost, decide how much you can afford to set aside for therapy. Usually, the therapist will recommend how often you’ll see each other, its good to be upfront about any cash flow limitations, especially if you are paying out of pocket. Therapists’ hourly rates vary, I’ve seen between $60-$300 per hour locally.
If you are on a limited income make sure you check with your township or county to see if they have any sliding scale therapists that you can see. This varies from state to state, but it’s a good place to start.
Check Office Hours
Once you’ve narrowed down your search, check what office hours your potential therapists keep. This was make or break for me. I worked until 5, and traffic can be a nightmare during rush hour. My therapist works 12-8pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday so that worked for my schedule. Check office hours and location to make sure this works well for you.
Remember you are hiring them, so ask questions to get a sense of if the therapist is the right fit for you. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What credentials do you have? Are they licensed in social work, psychology, psychiatry, etc.?
- Do you accept my insurance?
- What type of treatment techniques do you use?
- What are your hourly fees/rates?
- How will I know if therapy is working?
Schedule a Session
Schedule your first session to see what it’s like. And you will not be cured on your first session, therapy is ongoing treatment. Some people need more help than others and that’s ok, everyone’s brain chemistry is a little bit different. Please don’t compare your therapy to someone who was going through different challenges.
After your first session, you may feel indifferent and that’s ok. Give your therapist 3 sessions to form your opinion. If your therapist makes you feel uncomfortable quit the therapist, not therapy. This is advice I needed to hear, but never did. I figured therapy wasn’t working because I was failing. For once, it wasn’t me. Go back to your list and schedule a session with the next therapist on your list. It is ok if you don’t like your therapist, you need to feel comfortable for it to work.
Change Therapists if you Need To
Remember when I said I wanted a female therapist? When I was in college, I tried therapy with a male psychiatrist and I was very intimidated. He practically threw Zoloft at me when I said I still felt off. Then he just kept upping the dose no matter how many times I said that it made me feel like I was walking through cement and sleeping half the day. He also filled out crosswords during our sessions, and I mean, come on.
Unfortunately, I stopped going and weaned myself off of 150mg of Zoloft, and oh my god, do not ever do this, it’s dangerous and so horrible! I cannot not stress this enough, do not go off any anxiety medication cold turkey.
Moving on, eight years later, I thought I would try again; I did 4 sessions with a woman who was a little quirky. She was ok, however, she didn’t take notes and couldn’t remember our previous sessions so I was kind of paying to just repeat myself.
Your Perfect Match
After that, I found my perfect match, 3 Years after that (yeah, I know, wasted a lot of time). I had a break down after suffering a trauma, it wasn’t cute. Although it lead me to a real diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder with generalized anxiety and was prescribed Wellbutrin. I did a lot of research and met my new therapist and we vibed so well. I began to see her weekly and later bi-weekly and I’ve been doing this for 6 years.
The longer I see my therapist, the better my life has gotten. I lost 10 family members in the past 5 years, and if it wasn’t for my therapist, I don’t think I would have had the tools to even get out of bed. However, she worked with me through my mom and best friends’ cancer and my Dad’s heart disease. We talked through tools to deal with my aggressive and borderline abusive boss, I learned how to be myself and how to grow. Then, I got promoted, later started my own business, met my husband and developed wonderful friendships. I know damn well; this wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t put in the work.
I wish you all the luck in the world on your journey to mental health and happiness.