Updated: Feb 10
When I recently determined that I was ready to get my carpets cleaned in my home, I did what most people do when trying to find a local service provider. I asked around, did a web search, and placed a phone call. When I immediately heard back from a company after leaving a voicemail and the person I spoke to was courteous and helpful, I knew I had found the right fit.
Unlike many other service providers, finding a therapist can be much more complicated. Psychological research has shown over and over again that one of the key components predicting the success of therapy is the strength of the relationship between the client and the therapist. Most therapists, myself included, believe deeply in the power of relationships to harm and also to heal. Because of this, it is vital to the therapeutic outcome that there is a good fit between the client and the therapist.
So, how do you go about finding the right fit? Just as with other service providers, asking close friends is a good place to start. But what if you don’t know anyone currently seeking support from a therapist? Many therapists list their information (and pictures) on Psychology Today. The search feature on psychologytoday.com allows a client to search for potential therapists by Zip code, then filter by insurance coverage, gender, specialization, treatment modality, religious affiliation, etc.. Often you will begin to get a feel for the therapist by their photo and profile description, at least enough to know if you want to take the next step and reach out for an appointment or consultation.
When reaching out to a potential therapist, be prepared to give a brief description of what is bringing you in for help. The therapist does not need many details, just a summary such as “processing past trauma”, “grief and depression after a significant loss”, “symptoms of anxiety”, “relational difficulties with my spouse”, or “parenting after a divorce”.
It’s also helpful to know what kind of mental health services will be covered by your insurance plan. According to mentalhealth.gov, most insurance plans under the ACA are required to cover some mental health services. You can call your insurance provider and ask the following questions:
What are my mental health benefits?
What is my deductible and has it been met?
What is the coverage amount per therapy session?
How many therapy sessions does my plan cover?
Is approval required from my primary care physician?
Once you get to meet with your prospective new therapist, you’ll likely talk for a while about what brings you to counseling. You should feel free to ask the therapist questions that you have about their background and treatment approach. During an initial session, you can get a feel for how the therapist works, and begin to assess whether they are the right one for you. The therapist, too, will be assessing the fit. Try to be honest with yourself and the therapist about how you are feeling about the fit. As one of my favorite professors in graduate school said, “Find a therapist who lets you be the worst version of yourself. Make them work!”
Finding a therapist with whom you feel safe to take emotional risks can be a difficult task. If you think a therapist here at Sanctuary Psychological Services might be a good fit, don’t hesitate to contact us for an appointment. We would love to help.