If you’re having trouble finding the right therapist, don’t despair. It’s not easy.
People usually go with who’s closest to where they live or work, or who takes their insurance, or both—without ever actually deciding what they need personally from therapy.
It’s what they need from therapy that should lead them to whom they see. It’s the starting point for ensuring they get the help they’re after.
While some people can easily identify what they’re struggling with—anxiety, depression, a bad marriage, etc.—others aren’t so sure. All they know is that they’re hurting, and they need to talk to someone about it.
If you’re looking for a therapist, we have therapists with many specialites:
She Was Hurting but Didn’t Know Why
This was the case with Mary. Her mood was all over the place—from sad to happy to angry, and back to sadness within minutes. She couldn’t figure out why.
One moment, she was listless. Then, in an instant, she would snap for no reason, with the littlest thing setting her off.
About once a month, she would go for several days without sleeping. After that, she would crash and not want to get out of bed for days because she felt so bad.
So, she went online and typed “counselors near me.” Twenty pages of therapists in her area popped up—10 per page. From the first page on Google, all the way to Page 20, Mary had to sift through 200 therapists’ names and photos, along with descriptions of their areas of specialty, if the specialties were listed at all. Often, the therapist’s description was more about his or her philosophy of treatment than details about how to deal with the issue itself.
Don’t be fooled if you read that the person specializes in a particular condition, because most likely he or she does not. In an attempt to get patients into the practice—in order to meet overhead, honestly—therapists will claim to be an expert in almost anything, from anxiety and depression to couple’s therapy, bipolar disorder, anger management, addiction, or just about any other thing that any human being could struggle with.
Mary picked a clinician who seemed to know about her symptoms, based on the description she read about the person online. It took about one and a half sessions, however, for Mary to realize the therapist didn’t have a clue how to help her.
Finding the right therapist can be difficult and frustrating. Matching the right clinician with the right person can seem to be an impossible task. One option that gets close is HelpPro.com, an online resource that lists in its directory thousands of trained and licensed social workers, mental health counselors, and psychologists in more than 70 specialty areas. These professionals treat a full spectrum of patients, and searches can be customized as follows:
- by city,
- by specialty,
- by age group,
- by population group,
- by approach,
- by treatment method, and
- by language.
As you search, try to identify important goals for counseling, according to William L. Blout, LICSW, president of HelpPro.com. A mental health professional himself, with 40 years of experience in the field, Blout recommends you start by asking yourself: What is it that I want from therapy?
After this Question, Then What?
This is the first, and perhaps the most difficult question, especially for people who are new to therapy. But it’s crucial notto skip this step and head directly to an online search engine.
Before you start your search, consider factors that may be contributing to your difficulties:
- family history,
- patterns of behavior,
- alcohol and other substance use,
- Toxic personal or work relationships,
- And more.
If possible, assess the severity of the problem. Is this something that may require a long time to change, or would a focused, time-limited approach be best? Do you think medicine might help? Is it career related or part of a life transition?
Also, determine who else might be involved in therapy. For instance, is this a couple or marital issue, or a family problem? Does it involve your child? Would a support group be more helpful than individual therapy?
“Answering these questions will help prepare you to find a person best qualified to meet your needs,” Blout said. “Having a good idea of what you need from therapy, will help you ascertain what specialties, experience, and special training you are seeking in a therapist. You can then decide if a woman, a man, a couple’s counselor, or a child therapist would be best.”
What If You Don’t Know What to Ask?
Perhaps you don’t know any of the answers. All you can assess is that you’re feeling anxious or down, angry or scared, out of control, or too much in control of every aspect of your life or the lives of others.
“That’s okay,” Blout said. “Go from there, understanding that the right help is available.”
This wasn’t the case a few years ago. Then, it would have been impossible to get a list of therapists who match your specific needs. The Yellow Pages or health care provider directories offered very limited information about therapists. Now there are places to find the most comprehensive information about thousands of therapists and services across the country that provide a huge database of information, and in minutes generate a list of therapists who best match your specific needs.
Psychologytoday.com is option, though not as effective as HelpPro.com. While psychologytoday.com has an exhaustive listing of clinical professionals, psychiatrists, and treatment centers who offer mental health services in the United States and internationally, it does not allow you narrow your search to exactly what you’re looking for.
Rather, you’re forced to sift through pages of providers to see if the person specializes in what you need. Often, what you’ll find instead is a generalized description of the counselor’s approach to therapy. Issues such as addiction or weight control; dating or impulsivity; OCD or rejection—or a thousand other concerns—aren’t even included in many profiles. Or if they are, you have to dig for them, which could result in a lot of unnecessary reading.
Therapytribe.com is like this, as well. Type in your location and the kind of help you’re looking for and you get more of psychologytoday.com—meaning generalized descriptions of counselors without detailed explanations of what they specialize in and why.
But don’t despair. Therapy Tribe and Psychology Today—along with HelpPro.com—are a great start, and many people find the professional they need through them.
Associations Such as ADAA and SAMHSA
Better choices are perhaps associations that increase awareness and improve the diagnosis, treatment, and cure of various disorders. One such organization is the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), which addresses not only anxiety and depression but also OCD, PTSD, and co-occurring conditions in which an individual has a coexisting mental illness and substance abuse problem. ADAA’s directory of mental health professionals zeroes in on members near you who specialize in anxiety, depression, and co-occurring disorders.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will direct you to facilities and programs that treat alcohol or drug abuse. Its Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator allows you to find treatment facilities confidentially and anonymously. Simply type in your zip code and you’re provided with a wealth of places along with their contact information.
For mental health issues beyond anxiety, depression, or substance abuse, it is best to do separate online searches, for example, for bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and couples counseling, among others. The site findapsychologist.org is helpful in these areas.
If you’re comfortable doing counseling online, there are sites like BetterHelp.com, which provides access anytime day or night, from anywhere. Finally, remember to reach out to your primary care physician. He or she often has working relationships with mental health professionals who specialize in the exact things you need.
Nothing Works Without the Right Chemistry, So Interview
No matter who you end up going with, remember that good “chemistry” between you and that person is critical. To this end, Blout recommends having at least a telephone interview with a minimum of three prospective therapists. Most therapists realize that a “good fit” is often a question of professional style and personality. Take the additional step of requesting an initial interview before engaging in therapy.
“Don’t be afraid to shop around,” Blout said. “Let the therapist know that you are talking to several other therapists before deciding.”
Be prepared to ask questions based on your goals for therapy. Have a standard set of questions about fees, credentials, length of therapy, confidentiality, and professional philosophy and style. Ultimately, you need to feel a high level of trust and comfort, knowing you have found the right therapist, according to Blout.
This is your therapy. Make it count.
If you’re looking for a therapist, we have therapists with many specialites: