Sometimes, the hardest part of looking for a therapist is getting up the courage to call someone for the first time. You know you need to talk to someone, but who? And how do you know whether they’re the right fit for you? The truth is, relationships (even therapeutic ones) take some time to develop. Fit plays a key factor in whether you are going to feel comfortable and cared for enough to stay through the more challenging experiences of therapy, and whether the treatment will be a useful and helpful experience for you. Not to mention that in Berkeley, CA and the surrounding Bay Area, we are completely inundated with therapists, many of whom have similar specialties and theoretical orientations. This can make it a bit more time-consuming to weed through the bounty and find just the right match. Here are a few things to look for when choosing a therapist, to help you feel more confident when you make that first call. Website/Web presence. These days, most therapists have a website. Even if they don’t, there should be some kind of web presence, such as a listing on Psychology Today or a bio from a professional talk. If you don’t have a name of someone yet, search Psychology Today or GoodTherapy using some filters that best fit what you need. If you do have a name already, take a look at their website and ask yourself if the content and the style resonates with you. Is there a video you can watch? Are there articles you can read? Do you have a sense for the way this person thinks about clinical issues? What are their values? How might they approach the problem you’re bringing in to therapy? What is this person’s specialty? Would you feel comfortable telling this person the things that trouble you?
Personal referrals. If someone who knows you can personally recommend a therapist to you, chances are that the therapist will be a good fit. I still recommend doing the legwork to check out their online presence, but clients who are referred to me through friends or colleagues tend to already have a good feeling about the possibilities of our work together and have more of a sense of safety coming in the door. However, I would caution you against going to see the same therapist as a good friend of yours is seeing; there are ethical boundaries there that could potentially compromise the integrity of the therapy. I personally do not work with close friends or family members of my current or former clients, unless in the context of family therapy.
Think about what you really need, and what you already know about yourself. As you’re looking for the perfect therapist for you, think about what is likely to help you and what you are looking for. I find that journaling this out can be really helpful. Here are some questions you can think about as you’re searching, that can help you narrow down your choices. Think honestly about your answers to the following: Why am I reaching out? What might I want to get from therapy? What kind of time commitment am I willing to make? How much am I able to pay? Is it more important that I find someone on my insurance panel, or that I find a good fit quickly? Am I willing to talk with my new therapist about what I need from them? Where are they located, and how far am I willing to travel? What time of day do I need to be seen?
Email is fine—a call is better. A lot of people prefer to use email for first contact, which works well—you can get your message across thoughtfully and clearly, and it’s sometimes easier to make contact that way because it can feel like there’s less pressure. That said, I do highly recommend telephone contact for first contact, for your sake. You, as the client, can get a much better feel on the phone than on email from your potential new therapist. It might also be helpful to practice communicating what you’re looking for and setting limits in support of what you need. When you call, check in with yourself: does it feel as though the therapist hears you? Do they have time in their day to call you back? How quickly do they respond to your inquiry? Most therapists take the weekends off, but standard practice is to return calls within 24 hours. If the therapist takes much longer than that (barring weekends and holidays), you might consider looking elsewhere for your perfect fit.
When you call, check in with yourself often. You are talking to a trained professional if you’re calling a licensed MFT, LCSW, or PhD/PsyD. In addition to looking for credentials and theoretical orientation (if that matters to you, which it may or may not), you’re looking for someone whose style and presence resonates with you. Feeling connected to yourself while calling can help you decide whether you feel connected to the person you’re calling. Nerves can most certainly get in the way and fuzz up your radar if you feel anxious about meeting new people and nervous about reaching out for therapy. Try taking a few deep breaths with your feet firmly planted on the floor before you call to help center yourself. If you get a sense that the person is taking the time to really listen, chances are you have found a great fit already.
The therapeutic relationship is a vulnerable, brave, and deeply connected one. It’s essential that you feel met by your therapist, and if you don’t, that you both can talk openly about it together. If your therapist is unable to adjust to meet you where you are at, perhaps it is a sign to move on. Check in with yourself, have patience with the process, and remember that this is a journey you’re on to help you feel more alive and connected in your world, and journeys often require transitions and changes—but only when you feel ready.
(More tips on finding a therapist here: http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-to-find-a-therapist/)
I provide therapy in Berkeley, CA to individuals looking to delve into old patterns, explore overwhelming emotions, and find room for self-love and self-care amidst a harsh and unforgiving inner critic.
To cite this page:Merson, M. (2014) How To Find Your Favorite Therapist. Retrieved month/day/year from http://mollymerson.com/2014/09/28/how-to-find-your-favorite-therapist/