Most people consider starting therapy because one or more aspects of their life feel challenging or overwhelming. But when the process to find a therapist is also overwhelming, it can bring up our resistance and deflate our momentum for better self-care. Choosing the right therapist really depends on your needs and the counseling style that will work best for you.
There are several steps that you should take if you want to find a counselor that will truly make an impact on your life. These steps can include:
- Write down your symptoms
- Collect your medical records
- Find recommendations
- Email or call your top picks
- Make an appointment
Write down your symptoms
Understanding your symptoms is one of the first steps on the road to recovery. Write down any symptoms you've been having and for how long. If you have more than one symptom, begin with the one that is the most bothersome to you. For example, is your symptom:
- Excessive guilt or worrying
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Changes in sleep patterns or appetite
- Anger and irritability
Collect your medical records
Because your medical information is spread out among various doctors, it’s a good idea to assemble your own copy of all your records that you can access whenever you need to. Having your own complete set of records in one place allows you to share accurate information about your health history with your treatment team.
Usually, the first sources people reach out to are those they know and trust. Your accountant, lawyer, dentist, physician – any professional you have a relationship with who honors your confidentiality is a good resource. These people all run businesses as well as provide services, as do many psychotherapists in private practice. They are well connected in the community and refer to each other regularly.
By the way, when asking anyone for a referral to a mental health professional you do not have to go into the details of why you’re looking for someone unless you want to. It’s enough just to say, “I’m having some problems and I’d like to consult a therapist about it. Do you recommend anyone?”
Email or call your top choices
This is the part that may take some patience. Start contacting the therapists on your list. If you call them, expect to get their voicemail. You can also try sending an email with this same information. Did this for everyone on your list? Great work. Didn’t hear back from the one you really liked? Give them another call or email them again. We all know how easy it is to miss an email or a call. The important part is to not give up here. This is why it’s important to have a longer list of potential therapists.
Make an appointment
Once you’ve found a therapist in your area that accepts your insurance and fits your mental health needs, make an appointment for a consultation. This is a chance for you to ask about how they handle insurance companies and billing, scheduling availability, or any of the other logistics you need to figure out.
It’s also the time for you to discuss your expectations. Why are you looking for a therapist? How do they approach each session? Ask about options like telehealth or online therapy. Open up about your expectations, and figure out if they’re able to meet them.
If you don’t feel like they’re a good fit, don’t be afraid to go back to your list. The consultation is to make sure that you feel comfortable with each other. But if you like them and you feel like they can help you improve your mental health — congratulations, you found your therapist!
Everyone deserves to enjoy life to the fullest. If there are treatments and therapies available to help you do it, then it's definitely worth seeking professional help.
It's easy to forget that pain isn't always physical; pain can also be emotional, and that's where psychotherapy comes into play. If you feel like you need to speak to someone or get help with a problem or issue, reach out to get some relief right away.