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5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Therapist

Consider Your Network

As mental health becomes a more prominent issue in our culture, more people are open to talking about their own mental health journey. Ask friends and family if they have a therapist they would suggest. People you know who are already working with a therapist that they like can give you first hand info on what that therapist is like. Your primary care doctor, your school or your church may also be able to provide suggestions. If you are

already working with a psychiatrist for medication management, chances are they will be able to provide some great referrals for therapists that they respect and trust.

Consider Your Needs

It’s helpful to know what you want to focus on in therapy. Are you looking for coping skills to manage stress, anxiety, ADHD, etc.? Do you need support with grief? Perhaps you need support with a diagnosed mood or personality disorder. Maybe you have experienced a recent traumatic event or are dealing with the lingering impact of childhood trauma. Knowing what you want to focus on will help you search for therapists with those specialties and will help you communicate your needs to prospective therapists.

There might be a particular approach that you’re interested in or maybe something you’ve tried in the past that wasn’t a great fit. Many therapists note their preferred approaches on their website or online profiles. You might see things like Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR), Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), or Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT). If you’re unfamiliar with different counseling approaches, feel free to ask your prospective therapist or to do some research of your own.

Consider Relational Factors

Therapy is inherently relational so you want to find someone that you connect with. Success in therapy has a less to do with the approach being used and more to do with the relationship between the counselor and the client. Things like gender, age, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation and fait

h might be important for you. For example, if you’re in your 60’s and struggling with some of the challenges that come with this phase of life like the loss of a parent, changed relationship with your kids, or finding purpose after retirement, it might feel best to you to work with a therapist that’s of a similar age that you feel can directly relate.

Personality type and therapy style can also be important. Do you need someone who is soft and gentle, who will

give lots of affirmation to your experiences and just help you reframe your perspective? Or do you need someone who provides empathy but is feisty enough to challenge you and push you?

The Psychology Today website is a great way to address this part of the process. A therapist’s personal statement can give you an idea of who they are and how they communicate. Many therapists also have a short video on their profile that will give you a glimpse into their personality and energy.

Consider Credentials & Specialties

All the letters next to a therapist's name can feel confusing. When you see letters like LAC (Licensed Associate Counselor), LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) or LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), these therapists likely treat a wide range of mental health concerns. If you are struggling with addiction you might want to look for a LISAC (Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor) or LASAC (Licensed Associate Substance Abuse Counselor). If you are looking for support in your marriage or support for your whole family, a LMAFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) might be the best fit.

Therapists often have various types of specializations. A specialization indicates that a therapist has gone beyond obtaining a license and has acquired additional education and training in a specific area. They might specialize in working young adults, kids, couples, families, or in treating trauma, eating disorders, anxiety, depressions, mood disorders and more.

Consider Finances

You insurance company may offer mental health coverage and your carrier’s website is a good place to check for counselors that are in network. If you are planning to use insurance, it’s always best to be familiar with your mental health care coverage. Some plans help cover sessions with a minimal copay for the client while others involve a deductible. Your employer may offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that will cover a limited number of therapy sessions. Many counselors that take insurance are familiar with these programs and can provide suggestions on how to proceed if you need continuing support beyond the sessions covered by the EAP.

Working with insurance companies can be complicated for therapists so many opt for private pay. While this may be more expensive than using insurance, being open to private pay will open up more choices of great therapists. Some therapists offer sliding scale rates to accommodate clients who are tight on finances.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a consult! It can be extremely helpful to speak with a therapist directly to see if you connect with them. Make a list of a few potential therapists and give them a call. Tell them what you need and don’t hesitate to ask any questions you may have. If you’re considering therapy, there’s no better time than now!

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