How to find a therapist:
I have been told repeatedly that people have a hard time finding a therapist. I have also seen several people in my practice who had therapy in the past and were not pleased with their experience. I decided to provide a loose guide people can utilize to find a therapist or gauge their current therapy. I try to educate people who come to me for treatment to use this same process to evaluate their own treatment with me. This can be used by people at any point in their therapy but I will start with the initial phone calls. I would caution you that if you are using this in your current treatment with your therapist that you bring your findings to your therapist and discuss it. Once you read through this you will understand why I suggest this.
Assuming you are using insurance, first thing you want to do is get a list of clinicians in your area, that you can reasonably travel to, that accept your insurance and are taking new clients. You can also use a variety of internet based directories such as “psychology today”. There is also these options I have put together here: Finding a therapist in Managed Care
Make a short list of therapists, about 5 or so and call them. Call them and leave your name, say you are looking for a therapist and would like to talk with them about setting up an appointment.
Wait for a phone call back. This is where the “meat” of the process begins. Notice your reactions. You can write them down if you want or just notice them.
Joe Smith calls back within 2 hours and is attentive to your request, prompt in returning your call and professional and courteous. “I like him, he seems mature and responsible, I feel safe” may be something that runs through your head.
Sally Sue calls back 2 days later. There is a baby crying in the background, she seems distracted and she says “Oh hi I’m so sorry what was your name again, I didn’t call you back already, did I?” You may feel unimportant, neglected, irritated. Note that. Maybe you feel calm, safe, she is casual, spontaneous, you like her style. Whatever your reaction, note it.
Based on your experience on the phone, schedule meetings with 2-3 clinicians. Go to your appointment and tell them why you are there, what is going on, what you are struggling with, what you need help with. Maybe they will ask you why you are there themselves. Ask them anything you want to know. See how they respond. This is crucial information. An open, candid, measured, heartfelt response to a question may be an indicator how you will be treated in the future. A defended, curt, deflected response may also be an indicator of how this clinician will respond to you. Listen and notice your reaction to the therapist. Pay as much or more attention to your reaction as you do to what the therapist is saying. This is very important information. If it is clear to you that you like one of the clinicians, make a follow up appointment and commit to working with them for a period of time. If it is not clear, read on.
Whatever happens for you in the session with the clinician, say there are 2 therapists you are now considering, note it. However, this time, tell the therapist exactly what you experienced. Do not try to edit it in your mind, do not worry about hurting their feelings, do not worry about how it will sound or how it will land in the room. Just say it. Again – listen to your reaction.
Maybe you say: Therapist Joe, when I said I wanted help with feeling like my life is not going anywhere, you said “Oh ok, I understand” but you did not ask me what it means that I feel this way or what’s wrong in my life.
Maybe they reply: I am sorry you feel that way, I am interested in what you have to say.
Listen to yourself as they reply. Does it sound sincere, do you feel heard, do you feel supported?
Maybe they reply: Ok, well can you tell me more about what leaves you feeling stuck?
There is no right answer from the clinician. What is most important is how their words land, how you feel as you listen to them. Notice what is coming up.
Use the information you collect from your reactions to decide which therapist to choose. Feel free to ask any questions you wish. Notice how they respond and notice how you feel. Choose the therapist that leaves you feeling hopeful and optimistic about yourself.