Finding a GOOD Therapist

So you have read up on depression and anxiety, and decided that it’s time to get some support.  You want to look for a good therapist/counselor, but don’t know where to start.  Well, let me talk about how to find a GOOD therapist, because there are a lot of not so good ones out there.

When I was doing private practice, most of my referrals were through word of mouth.  The people that I was seeing, referred others to me because they felt that I was helpful and they were making progress.  At times, I needed to refer my patients to other people, who specialized in things that I wasn’t as trained in treating, and those referrals generally came back to me when they had a case that they thought I might be able to help.  In the end, getting referrals is very helpful, but sometimes you won’t be able to get a referral.

There are five steps to finding a GOOD therapist, in my book.  Let’s talk about each other them one by one.

1. Get a list from your insurance company, and find out how you are covered for counseling.

If you are covered under insurance, find out what is included in your policy.  Most insurance companies will make you see a person currently listed on their panel.  It is important that you see someone from the list because otherwise you will likely have to pay out of pocket to be seen.  Also find out if you can see two or more therapists to find a good fit for you.  Ask your insurance company if they will pay for more than on new appointment per year.  If they do, make appointments with a couple people to see which therapist is a better fit for you.  Everyone has a different bedside manner, and someone may be a better fit for your needs than others.

Insurance companies have reviewed the qualifications for the referral lists that they have, but they don’t keep it up to date very well.  When you start reviewing the list, it will be important to research the people that might specialize in the services that you need.  Just because they are on the list, doesn’t mean they are good but it’s a start to find someone for you.

2. Review the list and research people online.

These days, you can get feedback about your therapist online.  Google them!  Review information that you find.  Look at what their specialties are and what training they have.  If you need a therapist that works in trauma, find a therapist trained in trauma work.  If you need help with relationship skills, find a therapist that can help you develop skills.  Therapists aren’t good at all things.  I see many different kinds of patients, but I’m not formally trained in substance abuse or sleep disorders, so I tend to refer those patients to the correct treatment options.  Do your research and find a person that will be able to help you grow and manage your concerns.

3. Find the office where you would be seen, and take a look at the area.

I like to think that a therapist would attach themselves to a good environment, but sometimes that is not the case.  If you have issues with trauma, meeting a therapist in a questionable neighborhood might not be helpful to your recovery.  Make sure that you are able to easily find the office.  I know there are therapists that work out of their home, although it’s rare.  You need to determine if that works for you.  If they are a part of an agency, that may be somethings that you need to consider as well.  If you need to, don’t just drive by, go into the waiting room and look around.  Is it comfortable for you?  Do you feel safe?  Check out the place.  It can help in making it a good experience and a helpful one.

4. Call to talk with the therapist, prior to making an appointment.

When you call for an appointment, see if you are able to talk with the therapist prior to making an appointment.  This can be more difficult if you are making an appointment in an agency, but they should still be able to make the accommodation.  Talking with the therapist on the phone will help get a feel for the therapist’s bedside manner, speech, tone, and attitude.  You will not able to get a feel for everything, but it will help you make a decision about who will be best to help you.

5. If your insurance company will allow it, try to see more than one person and pick the therapist that makes you feel comfortable.

Please make sure that your insurance company will allow this before you make multiple appointments, to avoid financial issues with payment for services.  Also, if you chose to make multiple appointments, you do not have to share this with the therapist, that you are “shopping”.  Some therapists will be very negative and, at times, make you feel bad.  Even therapists can be very petty.  You have the right to find the person that will work for you, and we are all different people, with different ideas.  When I was in practice, there were people that I worked well with, and others I didn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, it hurts when I didn’t get “picked” but I had to step back and realize that the person needed support, and if I wasn’t the one, they needed to find the one that can help.

A second thing to observe during that initial appointment is how focused the therapist is on you.  If they are checking their phone often, distracted with other things, or trying to rush you, don’t go back.  Recently, someone I know went to a therapist who said that she has to check her phone often, and not to worry because she was still listening.  Baloney!!!  As a therapist, you have to focus on your patient, not your phone.  When I was in session, my phone was on silent and usually across the room, and I was focused on my patient.  That was the respectful thing to do.  If they don’t respect your time, I would have a concern about how they were going to be able to help you.

Having the courage to get help when you need it is so important, but finding the right person to help you on your journey is just as important.  If you make the decision to seek help, find the best person for you and stick with it.  It will likely be hard but worth it in the end.