The good news is that people are (finally!) realizing the importance of mental health. The bad news for many people is that the prospect of finding a therapist is overwhelming to think about on the best of days and may feel insurmountable on the worst days.
But finding a therapist doesn’t have to be hard! Here are some tips:
Think about what your goals are.
Do you want individual therapy? Couple? Family? Group support? Medication management? All of the above? What you need may shape the best fit for you. (Only psychiatrists and nurse practitioners with a specialization in psychiatry can prescribe medication in most states, and most prescribers in our area want you to have ongoing therapy with someone.)
If you have health insurance, start with your insurance company. They can tell you not only who is in-network for you, but what your copay will be. This can take the headache out of knowing whether or not someone is covered by your insurance company.
Who do you know?
If you have a good relationship with your physician/general practitioner, ask them who they recommend.
Friends and family can be a good resource, but be careful about going to the same therapist as your friend. It may be more helpful to ask them what they like about their therapist. Maybe they like a very direct approach, and you know that you need someone a bit gentler! Also, be aware of conflicts of interest. All therapists’ codes of ethics, whether they’re social workers, psychologists, counselors, or marriage & family therapists, prohibit dual relationships. Your therapist’s job is to be objective, and if they can’t be objective between you and your friend who also sees them, it’s time to find a new therapist.
Remember, therapists are people, and, as such, what works for one person may not work for another. If you haven’t found the right therapist yet, don’t give up! There’s a Zen Koan (teaching story) about a man who goes to a master teacher at the top of the mountain. After a long, arduous journey, he reaches the top of the mountain, and he says, “Master, all my life I have looked for meaning, and I still have not found it!”
The master smiles and says, “Wonderful!”
The man becomes angry. “What do you mean, my unfulfilled quest is ‘wonderful’?!”
The master says, “It’s wonderful because you still have something to search for.”