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Suggestions for Finding a Therapist

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Therapeutic Community Program Manager at the Austen Riggs Center, Cornelia Kalisher, LSWBy Cornelia Kalischer, LSW

The relationship between you and your therapist is important. How do you find a therapist whom you have never met, and be able to feel comfortable sharing some of your deepest, most personal thoughts and feelings with them?  While this might seem like a daunting task, here are some ideas that may help you:

  1. Before you begin looking, you may consider the following non-negotiable aspects first, and then narrow your search accordingly: Would you only feel comfortable talking to someone of a specific gender or age-group? Does your therapist also need to prescribe medication? Are you limited to certain providers by insurance coverage? 
     
  2. Ask people in the field that you trust, or friends who have seen a therapist for possible recommendations. You can also use online professional directories to investigate individual therapist’s ratings.
     
  3. Don’t rely on credentials alone. A therapist may be a Clinical Social Worker, PhD or MD. Consider multiple factors beyond simple training in your decision. 
     
  4. Interview potential therapists. Meet with a few and compare them to one another in order to find a therapist you feel that you can work with. Explain what you hope to achieve through your therapy experience and ask how they might help you reach these goals. Discuss everything from their training/background and style to their availability. Some therapists will agree to a free consultation. You might want to schedule a trial period of several sessions before making a choice. A therapist may also want to do the same to ensure that they are the right fit for you as well. 

       Some questions to ask: 

       - How does a therapist manage confidentiality?
       - How much do they charge and how do they do billing (per session, monthly)?
       - How often can they see you?
       - Do they take your insurance (if you need to pay with insurance)?
       - How do they manage time between sessions, should you need to contact them in a crisis?
       - How do they manage vacations? How often do they go away? If you feel you need
         someone while they are away, do they have a colleague to work with?

  5. Listen to your reaction to a person or environment. Pay attention to your instincts both at your first meeting, as well as the days that follow. (Was the pace of the trial session too intense, so you felt as if you needed to hide and could not reveal issues, or did it help to bring up issues that you could then begin to face and work on? Did you feel comfortable with the therapist’s approach? Did it feel active enough? Did it feel reflective enough?) If you seem to have a persistent good or bad feeling about someone, trust this. 
     
  6. If at first you don’t find a therapist to work with, keep on searching. It might take some time (and possibly it did not work) before you find a good fit.

I hope this has been helpful in your personal process of looking for an outpatient therapist.

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