I talk more about the specific differences in coaching versus therapy over in this post, so please check that out if you haven’t.
You’ve realized that you need a therapist (or quite possibly I’ve recommended it) so now how do you find one? Or maybe you moved, so it’s time to find a new therapist.
Deciding to give therapy a try can be a vulnerable feeling, so how do you beginning finding a complete stranger to trust with your biggest feelings?
First, a couple of logistical questions:
If you have insurance, what do they authorize (if anything)?
- Insurance will usually also have a list of authorized providers. Have that list handy as you continue these others steps.
If you don’t have insurance, what is your budget? How much per month can you afford for therapy?
- If you can’t afford therapy, I do have some resources linked at the end; please stick around.
What accessibility do you have?
- Physically, can you get to appointments, or due to health and pandemic concerns, would you need telehealth.
- Schedule-wise, can you only make appointments on certain days or during certain hours? Keep these details in mind.
Next, know what it is your hoping to address or achieve thru therapy. Some key things to have in mind:
What are you hoping to achieve through therapy (it’s ok if you don’t know)?
- What feelings are you struggling with in your day-to-day?
- What’s drawing you to give therapy a try?
Do you have any previously diagnosed mental health or neurodivergence?
- Therapists are human; they all have their personal experiences and can’t know everything about everything. Suppose you have, for example, autism. Even if that’s not directly what you are seeking therapy for, it can be crucial that the therapist understand autism as it can influence the best ways to support you in the therapeutic process.
- If you’ve never been diagnosed, but you heavily suspect you have something like PTSD, ADHD, autism, an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, etc. If you want to further explore that topic and seek a formal diagnosis. In that case, you must be working with someone that understands what they are looking for.
Do you want to focus on processing past events? Or are you hoping to focus on changing behaviors in the current day created in response to past experiences?
- For example, a combat veteran may want to talk about a particular day and event, focusing on processing to help mitigate intrusive thoughts, nightmares, survivor’s guilt, etc.
- Someone that grew up with a narcissist has been shaped by that upbringing. Still, instead of unpacking the past, they want to focus on how that past shaping impacts how they interact with people currently and begin to reshape those behaviors.
Quick point of clarification: the veteran will likely also talk about how the toll of that day impacts how they interact with the world now. And the child of a narcissist may need to explore particular events from the past. These aren’t mutually exclusive, but articulating this can help find a therapist and ensure they’re a good fit.
If you don’t know which you want, that’s 100% ok. Don’t worry about it.
Alright, now that you’ve got some logistical details figured out, a sense of what you want to accomplish, and possibly particular areas of experience your want in a provider…
…It’s time to start searching.
If you are comfortable, word of mouth through friends.
Psycologytoday.com – this is my go-to recommendation.
- You start off with a search by zip code. From there, you can narrow down gender, special focuses, if they take insurance, many list their rates if they don’t, if they offer online sessions, etc.
- Create a list of therapists that sound appealing to you
- Narrow that list down to a top 3
Services like BetterHelp, TalkSpace, Thrive Works, etc. I have not personally used these types of services but I have friends who do and speak highly of the option.
When money is an issue.
*(h/t to @justtherapythings on TikTok for sharing these amazing resources)
Now that you’ve got a name or 5, give them a call and see if they are taking new patients and schedule the first appointment.
That first appointment is a first date. Do you like them, their vibe, how the conversation flowed? You should feel free to ask questions and get a feel for this person. As well as sharing a bit about what’s going on for you and what you’re hoping to get out of therapy.
You do NOT have to pour your guts out on the first session. And you can ask them questions about their views and experiences. You are in charge. If you aren’t comfortable you can end the session early and go. If after the session you just feel eh about them, you don’t have to go back.
Finding a good therapist often isn’t a one-and-done. In 15 years, I’ve been through over 10 therapists. Some I saw once or twice and never went back. One I worked with for seven years till I moved out of the area.
Don’t be afraid to shop around.