Finding the Right Therapist for You
If you’re thinking about finding the right therapist, you’ve likely already made the decision to ask for support. If you’re still trying to figure out what therapy is all about, read more here.
Finding the right therapist is a process that can take some time and a little patience. You will probably look for a therapist with the help of a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult. Here are eight steps to finding a therapist who is a good fit for you.
1. Ask Around
A good starting place for getting names of therapists is to talk to your health care provider, friends, trusted adults, or a school counselor who may have worked with or know the reputation of professionals in your area. If you have insurance, you can use your provider’s website to search for nearby therapists or ask for a list.
Once you have some names, check their websites for the things below.
2. Look at Their Credentials
The schools a counselor or therapist went to are not very important, but it is important to confirm that they have attended legitimate and certified training programs, meet standards of training for their profession, and are qualified to help you with an emotional condition. Licensed professionals who provide counseling include:
- Psychiatrists (MD)
- Psychologists (PhD, PsyD)
- Psychiatric nurse practitioners (MSN, PMHNP-BC)
- Licensed clinical social workers (MSW, LCSW)
If you choose to work with a psychologist or social worker and you need medication, they will help you find an MD or nurse practitioner who can prescribe medications and work closely with your therapist in your care, with your consent.
3. Find Out If They Have Special Areas of Interest or Training
Some therapists obtain additional training or study in specialized areas, including specific age groups or conditions, such as eating disorders. They may also specialize in particular therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive behavior therapy or alternative approaches. If you’re a teen, you may want to look for a therapist who likes to work with teens. If you’re interested in using meditation and relaxation as part of your therapy or if you are curious about hypnosis, you can see if a therapist has the expertise to teach you.
4. Think About Seeing a Therapist Who Shares Your Cultural Background
There can be a lot of benefits to working with a therapist who shares your cultural background or has been trained in culturally competent therapy, which means they will not only respect your identity and cultural background but will bring it into their work with you, whether or not they have a similar background.
Check out these detailed tips for finding a culturally competent therapist.
5. Find Out About Insurance and Payment Options
Before you contact a therapist, it would be helpful to confirm whether they accept your insurance. If they accept your insurance, you will probably be expected to make a co-pay contribution (the part you pay above what the insurance pays) for the cost of therapy. If a therapist doesn’t accept your insurance, you will be expected to cover the expense of therapy “out of pocket.” Some therapists are able to negotiate with you to come up with a fee for treatment that works for you and your family—this is called a “sliding scale fee”—but you should discuss it before you make a commitment for treatment.
There are good resources for finding affordable therapy, including the Open Path Collective.
6. Consider Setting
Counseling and therapy can take place in a private office, hospital, clinic, or community center. A good setting is in a convenient location (close to you or transportation) and makes you feel safe and comfortable when you’re there.
7. Review Their Privacy and Confidentiality Policies
Before you make a decision about a therapist, it would be good to have a specific and honest discussion with your parents and a mental health counselor about your expectations and ideas regarding confidential information that may come up during therapy. Most providers can agree to keep most information private, except in cases where you may be a danger to yourself or others. It’s a good idea to talk about these things before you start working with someone.
8. Ask for an Initial Consultation
Ask your prospective therapist for an initial phone consultation. They usually last about 20 minutes, during which you can ask questions about them and how they work, and they can learn what you want to work on with them. If a trusted adult is helping you in your search, they can also be a part of the call. Together you can decide if it makes sense to set up an initial appointment.
It may take a few sessions to figure out whether the therapist is a good fit for you. Give it a chance, but if it doesn’t feel right after a few sessions, it’s completely fine—and a good idea—to reach out to another therapist. Lots of research shows that feeling comfortable with and understood by your therapist is a very important ingredient in therapy being helpful.