Welcome to part two of this blog post about finding a therapist that’s right for you! My goal is to help you figure out what you’re looking for and to make the entire process of getting help much more straightforward. I am outlining clear action steps you can take to get the right kind of help for you, so you can start feeling better, being who you want to be, and living the life you want as quickly as possible.
In part one, I talked about what it means to choose the right therapist for you, different therapist credentials, and the different places that therapists work. All of this should help you understand what kind of therapist you are going to be looking for.
Now we’re going to dive into the actual process of finding a therapist. I’ll discuss different search tools, questions to ask when you’re trying to decide who to schedule with, and how to tell if the therapist you chose is a good fit for you.
When it comes to how to go about your actual therapist search, you may not know where to start because there are so many places to look! Unfortunately there is no singular place to search for all of the therapists who are licensed to practice in your state.
One option is to ask your primary care doctor for a recommendation. If you are pregnant or postpartum, you can ask your OBGYN or midwife if they have names of therapists they recommend.
I definitely recommend that you do not try using your insurance website. While it may seem obvious to try the “Find a Provider” tool through your insurance member page or to even call and ask your insurance directly, this is often a frustrating strategy for finding a therapist in network. The results provided by insurance tend to be overwhelming and unhelpful. This is because they don’t provide any specific information about what kinds of issues the therapists work with or what kinds of therapy they provide. The results are also often outdated – therapists may be listed here who actually left the network months or even years ago and are now fully self-pay.
If you are looking for something incredibly specific, I actually recommend trying to use a Google search for exactly what you are looking for. For example, you could type in “black therapist for lesbian moms.” If you are looking for a therapist who provides in-person sessions, you’ll also probably want to add your city to the search. If you are willing to meet with a therapist online, then type in the name of your state. This will provide more results since therapists can work virtually with clients who reside anywhere in the entire state.
If you don’t have a direct referral or aren’t sure what to search in Google, then the easiest way to search is in therapist directories. There are TONS online directories, so it’s important to know that most therapists only list themselves in one or two directories. Each directory has a cost to maintain a listing, so some therapists may not be listed in any directories if they have their own website. Some therapists have a website, while others do not and simply provide their information through their directory profiles.
Below I’ve provided a list of several credible directories that are considered more general. This means you can find all kinds of different therapists in these directories. Because they are more general, they usually include a greater number of providers. For example, Psychology Today is by far the largest/most well-known directory, so you will find the greatest number of options for therapists. Psychology Today also allows you to search for prescribers and support groups. However, once you start filtering your search, you may not have as many options depending on what you are looking for.
If you are looking for a certain kind of therapist or therapy for a specific issue, there are a variety of specialized directories you can try.
For example, you have some great options if you are looking for a perinatal therapist (a therapist for infertility or issues during pregnancy/postpartum). I recommend to start with Postpartum Support International’s directory. All therapists and counselors listed in their directory have met a minimum criteria regarding training in perinatal mental health. The Touchstone Institute also has a directory for therapists specializing in perinatal mental health.
If you are looking for a therapist who uses a specific modality (kind of therapy), here are some directories that are specifically for some popular modalities:
EMDRIA (EMDR International Association)
IFS Institute (Internal Family Systems Institute)
If you are looking for a BIPOC or LGBTQIA therapist, here are some great options:
Here are a few additional helpful things to know when you are searching:
Most online directories rely solely on self-report and do not perform any sort of verification, so I could say that I “specialize” in ___ without ever having taken an official training or getting any sort of certification. This is why it’s important to ask more specific questions once you reach out to a potential match.
Once you have identified one or more therapists you might want to work with, you’re going to want to make sure you ask certain questions to be sure they are a good fit for you. You may find many of the answers to these questions in their directory profile or on their website. If not, you can send them an email, or many therapists offer a free 15-minute phone or video consultation where you’ll be able to ask questions and see how it feels talking back and forth. This “interview” is a key step in finding a therapist that is right for you!
Below, I include a full list, but here are some of the most important questions you’ll want to ask when looking for a therapist:
If wanting to use insurance:
If not planning to or able to use insurance:
Hopefully the consultation call will help you feel confident in moving forward after finding a therapist. Once you actually meet with your new therapist for the initial session, you’ll need to decide if you want to continue scheduling with them. Sometimes you will know without a doubt after that first session that they are right for you! good or bad!
Other times, you may have no doubt that the therapist is actually not a good fit. Obviously if there are any red flags or any dealbreakers, you don’t have to go back. If asked at the end of the session to schedule your next visit, just say you’ll follow up to set up another visit. If they already booked you for a recurring time, you can send a quick email to say you need to cancel. You do NOT owe them any kind of explanation.
If you’re not sure – you’re not feeling strongly one way or the other after that first meeting, I recommend giving it two to four more sessions and then re-evaluating how you feel. The first session is an “intake” so they are just going to ask a lot of questions. The intake is not necessarily the best representation of what actual therapy is like with them. Also, sometimes it takes awhile to feel comfortable with therapy in general. You may need time to get used to their style and stop comparing if you’re switching from someone else.
Below I have provided an additional list of questions you can ask yourself if you aren’t sure if you should give it more time to see if you want to continue working with them beyond the initial session, or if you’ll have return to the process of finding a therapist.
If you answered “No” to one or more of these questions or have concerns after reading through these questions, you have a couple options. Depending what your concerns are and however you feel most comfortable proceeding, one option is to bring them up with your therapist to see if they can address or resolve them. Or, you can look for a new therapist. If you feel comfortable sharing what didn’t feel like a good fit, your therapist should be able to help connect to someone else who would be more of what you are looking for.
If you are looking for a trauma therapist in Denver (or online for anyone living in Colorado or Georgia), you can learn more about me and my therapy practice here to see if I might be the right therapist for you!