Oh, look at you, boo! Landing on a blog post about how to find the right therapist.. that’s big. First of all, kudos to you. 👏👏👏 It’s a big freaking deal and takes more strength than most people care to acknowledge. You’re looking to invest in yourself. It takes a lot of courage and self-love to take those first steps. And with the way the world has been lately, I, low-key, totally believe every damn human should be in some kind of therapy. I like to say if you think you don’t need it, you probably need it the most. 😉
You could be the most normal mom next door or the doting wife dealing with an addict. You could be the backbone of your family or living with a roommate that’s struggling with addiction. Whether you have inner conflicts yourself or you’re suffering from dealing with someone that desperately needs therapy, you’re making the right moves. This post is going to tackle the best things for you to do to find the right therapist. From where to look online to recognizing red flags, you should feel confident in your search.
Shoutout to Millennials + Therapy
It seems like we millennials have changed the narrative about therapy, and I’m proud of that. I remember hearing elders talk about therapy as if it’s a weakness, flaw, or taboo. Over time, the conversation has slowly done a 180. We’ve made it cool to face our demons, sadness, and struggles. We’ve normalized the idea of talking about mental health, addictions, diseases, disabilities, or anything else society hasn’t deemed as “normal”. It’s probably one of the greatest shifts in our society.
From what I’ve learned, we all carry some kind of trauma that stems from our childhood, and it’s typically passed down through generations. Meaning, our trauma goes back to our parents’, our parents’ parents, our great-grandparents, etc. Trust me, I know that so many people want to do better than what they experienced growing up, but at the same time, that might be the only thing they know. It’s part of being human. However, I feel like as adults, it’s our job to acknowledge our trauma and flaws and do better. It’s our responsibility to improve our own lives. We need to have the strength to face the bullshit head-on and turn it into growth. If we’re tired of the same issues being passed down then we have to put in the work to change the script. So again, kudos to you for wanting to change a pattern.
Remember Therapists are People, too.
Finding the right therapist can be really difficult. After all, therapists are humans with their own flaws, too. They’ve had their own experiences that they pull from, but they have also been professionally taught how to react, respond, and guide their patients. Not everyone is going to have the same technique or the right approach for you. You’re not going to “click” with everyone, therapists included. That’s why I often refer to finding the right therapist as dating. I know that can seem daunting, time-consuming, and exhausting, but you have to keep going until you find the right fit. Of course, there’s also a chance you’ll nail it and have a perfect match from the beginning.
I feel really lucky that I found my therapist, Winona, with my second shot, but I totally realize it doesn’t work that way for everyone. After chatting with a lot of you and hearing so many different stories, I’ve pulled together this little list to help you get started in the right direction. Whether you’ve never seen a therapist or you’re realizing your counselor isn’t the right fit for you, be gentle and patient with yourself.
**Therapists are not a one-size-fits-all (which is the point of this blog post), but for those of you asking, Winona is located at The Wellspring NSB. If you see her, please let her know about this post. 🙂
Ok, Let’s Go. Here’s How to Find the Right Therapist For You:
Tackle the Basics (Money).
First and foremost, decide how you’re paying for your sessions. Many insurance plans will offer assistance with covering the fees that are associated with going to therapy. However, that also means they may have a limited number of sessions or a smaller network. Other wellness centers or private offices will work with you and your budget. Some of them will have a minimum fee with a sliding scale payment. This is their effort of making mental health counseling available to everyone, regardless of economic status. I always say it never hurts to ask. So never let the fear of hearing “no” keep you from asking about financial options.
Yep. It’s as easy as that. Start googling for therapists in your area with your specific concerns. Whether it’s anxiety, an eating disorder, handling the loss of a loved one, or just wanting to sort out your own thoughts, there is someone out there for you. I found my therapist on PsychologyToday.com. It’s an easy first-look for browsing counselors in your area. Not only can you narrow down your search to match your specific needs, but their profiles give you a glimpse into their counseling style. That can be a great approach in knowing whether or not you’ll feel comfortable with this person. The most important part of googling is to be certain you’re finding a licensed therapist. All of the therapists on PsychologyToday are licensed. In today’s world, almost anything can get thrown around online. Be mindful and smart about who you choose.
Ask Around with People You Trust.
I wish I had done this when I first started looking into therapy. You’d be surprised how many of the people around you are already seeing a therapist and working on their own mental health or internal struggles. I occasionally post about my therapy sessions on my Instagram and I always get an incredible amount of responses. I. Love. That. Ask away. I’m an open book about my own sessions because I want everyone to feel comfortable working on themselves. Seeking out help from a therapist is not a weakness. It’s an insanely brave step in your own well-being.
If you’re a student, chances are your school will have free or very affordable access to counseling on your campus. Reach out to your school’s resources first to see what your options would be.
Commit to the Appointment(s).
You have to actually get yourself to the appointment in order to see and feel the benefits of therapy. I suggest taking the first available session and committing to it as you’d commit to your very best friend’s birthday dinner. You wouldn’t miss it for the world. Winona told me once that about 50% of first-time clients are no-shows for their appointments. Don’t be that person.
Interview the Therapist.
Remember that the ball is in your court. The truth is that you’re trusting a stranger with some of your deepest, most personal thoughts. If you want to find the right therapist, you have to treat the appointment as if you’re hiring someone to hold this invaluable piece of you. Don’t be afraid to go in and interview the therapist. Hopefully, they recognize that it’s a big deal to you. They should be open and happy to answer your questions.
Some Questions You Can Ask Include:
Do you specialize in my problems/concerns?
How long have you been a therapist?
What is your treatment style?
How many patients do you currently have?
Do you talk more or do I?
Do you feel confident that you can help?
How do you feel about our fit?
Why did you became a therapist?
Be Vulnerable & Honest AF.
If you can’t be these two things with your therapist, it’s not the right one for you. Your sessions should make you feel safe, secure, heard, and understood.
I’m not saying the therapist needs to people-please you or coddle you. Therapy is hard work and if you’re searching for someone to just tell you what you want to hear then you aren’t willing to actually grow. However, if you’re holding back in sharing something with them because of the way they make you feel, fear of judgment, or an overall uneasy feeling, then they are not for you.
The first session I ever had with a therapist gave me several red flags that I didn’t recognize at the time. Aside from the therapist walking into the office 15 minutes late for my appointment (she was “running a quick errand”), this therapist made me feel judged and insecure. Red flag. I remember people-pleasing her when she asked me questions. Red flag. I left the appointment feeling completely discouraged and depleted. Red flag. I felt hopeless and thought maybe I actually was the problem. Red flag.
There’s literally zero point in seeking help if you’re not going to be open and honest with a licensed professional. I know this can be an insanely large hurdle. It could possibly take a lot of time to build up that trust with someone, but when you find the right therapist, you’ll find yourself peeling back the layers and allowing yourself to be open and honest, no matter how hard the topic is for you.
I mentioned this above, but just in case you scrolled right to the bold points, this is the most important part of your journey. You do not have to stay with the same therapist just because you started with them. Do not be afraid to consult with several therapists or start fresh with someone new even after sharing a lot of your story with another one. You may even end up back at one of the first ones! There are no rules with this. Your comfort level, trust, and respect with this person need to be a top priority so if you’re not feeling it, move on and try again.
Try Out Online.
In the times of covid and just overall social anxiety that so many of us experience, maybe an online session would be right for you. It gives you the flexibility of being somewhere you’re already comfortable. You can feel more in control of the session by not walking into someone else’s office, but instead, sitting in your own sanctuary.
Online sources like betterhelp.com and talkspace.com give you the opportunity to keep meeting with various online counselors until you’ve found your match. I feel like the online approach can be a lot less intimidating and puts a little more of the power in your hands. At the end of the day, these counselors should want you to choose a therapist that feels right for you. So, keep “dating” around until you find the one.
Once You Find the Right Therapist, Find Your Consistency.
The frequency in your appointments falls onto your own shoulders. Your therapist may suggest how often you should go, but it’s up to you to show up. While your financial situation may make this an easy decision for you, I can’t tell you how important it is to find consistency in seeing your therapist. I typically try to go at least once a month, but I’ve also been multiple times a week and have stretched it up to 6-8 weeks in between appointments.
I’ve noticed therapy works the most when I have the appointment booked and on my calendar. I go to the appointment regardless of how “good” I’m feeling at the time. Checking in and talking about the great things going on in your life can often be just as helpful.
Remember That You’re in Control.
At the very least, I’m really freaking proud of you for landing on this blog post. It means you’re putting your or a loved one’s mental health as a priority. That’s exactly what we need more of in this world. The world would truly be a better place if everyone had the guts to put their ego aside and work on themselves with a professional therapist. You get out of therapy what you put in. You’re in control of your growth and mental health. If you find the right therapist, you will have giant leaps of progress and you’ll also have days where you want to give up. You are in control of your life. Make it the best it can be.