Practical help to find the right mental health care for you
“I want to go to therapy…but how do I know where to start!”
If you’ve ever seen a therapist (or thought about finding one) this uncertainty may feel too familiar. We hear from patients all the time about how hard it can be to find the right therapist. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone.
May is Mental Health Awareness month - and we’re doing everything we can to empower you to take control of your mental health and find the right therapist. We talked to Dr. Alice Shepard, PhD, owner of Mirielle Therapy, to get advice on how you can make the search for a therapist easier and faster, and to help you get paired with the right person for you.
Finding a good therapist is a lot like dating. You wouldn’t commit for life to the first person you meet, right? The same goes for therapy. Make a list of therapists you may want to work with.
Once you’ve made a list of therapists you may want to work with, schedule the first meeting. Afterward, take time to pause and reflect.
Ideally, you’ll feel safe enough to share personal things about yourself - potentially things you haven’t spoken to family or friends about.
After your first meeting, ask yourself how you felt. You’ll want to be sure that you feel “chemistry” or “connection” between you and your therapist. Note non-verbal cues and silences and consider how these elements of communication made you feel. Did the therapist listen to you? Did it feel like a good match? Could you see that person helping you grow and evolve in the short term and near term?
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of therapists, get the logistical stuff like hours, prices, and billing out of the way first. That way, you can focus on what really matters: how you feel in the room. Some logistical questions to ask yourself include:
- Is the therapist’s office located in a convenient place for you?
- Do they offer telehealth therapy or in-person care? Do you have a preference?
- What are the therapist’s rates?
- Do you have insurance? Does it cover therapy?
- How does billing work?
You’ll also want to determine whether the therapist has experience aligned with your goals. Are you struggling with a condition such as OCD, anxiety, or PTSD? Dr. Shepard recommends finding a therapist who has trained in - and practices - cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). If you’re looking for therapy to address concerns surrounding your personal relationships or career, consider finding a therapist with specific expertise in those areas.
Everyone deserves access to someone who is not only well trained but someone who works well with you. Therapy isn’t one-size-fits-all. It may take a few tries, but you will find the right therapist for you.
It’s important that you work with a therapist who you “click” with, as this makes it so much easier to feel safe and comfortable. The therapist/patient relationship is built - like all important relationships - on trust and understanding. Finding good chemistry with a quality therapist will help you open up and get the most out of your care.
The only person whose decision matters here is you. If you feel safe and comfortable with a therapist, fantastic! If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, you are totally entitled to discuss your concerns or walk away at any point in the relationship!
Before discontinuing care, it can sometimes be better to have an honest conversation with your therapist about what isn’t working. You may discover that your therapist simply didn’t realize you wanted to touch on a specific issue, in which case, they should be open to adjusting the sessions accordingly.
Empower yourself to actively participate in your care by bringing up any concerns you may have about your therapy, or guiding sessions so that they address specific matters you want to work through.
While it may be awkward to have that conversation, know that therapists won’t take it personally if you need a change or choose to discontinue care.
Can’t find the information about a therapist or your area of focus online? Just ask. Therapists are generally happy to answer questions that will empower you to make an informed decision about your mental health.
Therapists are more than happy to answer questions about their areas of expertise, background, and more. Your first meeting may be an excellent way to ask questions and see if that therapist can help you address the areas where you’d like to focus. Make a list of questions beforehand and bring them to your first meeting. Don’t feel shy to ask for clarification. There’s no question too small or big when it comes to finding the right therapist for you!
Mental health is a personal journey. Empower yourself to find the form of care that’s right for you. Take your time to find a therapist that you connect with and feel comfortable around; someone who can help you navigate to a better place. These essential elements of the therapist/client relationship can help you get the most out of your mental health care and set you on a positive and impactful path toward feeling like yourself.