Shannon M. Duffy, MFT, LCPC

Making the decision to find a therapist can be intimidating and at times overwhelming. The decision alone to start talk therapy is a major step and finding the best therapist for yourself should not have to be complex. It is however essential to take the time to find a competent therapist by utilizing a few identifying factors that will aid in this selection process.

The first step is to start inquiring or researching who could be a good for you. The basic search can start with geographic location, gender of therapist, and finding someone within your health insurance network. It is beneficial for you to look at the licensure of the therapist to ensure the qualifications. If you are looking for talk therapy, anyone with a LPC, LCPC, LSW, LCSW, AMFT, LMFT, or PsyD can be of help. Most internet search sites and the therapist’s own websites will provide more guidance towards what the therapist specializes in or has been trained in. Reading the biographies provided on the websites can give you a sense of the therapist’s style, approaches, and overall knowledge base. One search site that is extremely helpful in this process is PsychologyToday.com, to find a therapist. This site allows you to filter criteria so you can narrow down the search by presenting concerns, insurance, location, licensure, years of experience, etc. If you are wanting to use your health insurance, many insurance companies will also provide guidance towards who is in network on their own website for your review. It is your own personal preference if you would like to use your health insurance, not all therapists are paneled with insurances and only take out of pocket payments. Another common resource is asking your social network for therapist referrals, however, sometimes it is more beneficial to find your own therapist to avoid any conflict of interest.

Once you have narrowed down your search, many therapists will offer phone consultations or even shortened in office consultations. The key within mental health therapy is to develop a positive rapport with the therapist. You want to feel comfortable to be open and honest with this person to address your overall concerns. Starting out with a consultation can answer any questions you may have regarding the structure of therapy, insurance benefits, and present your initial concerns to align with the therapist to note if they can be of help. There is no offense taken with interviewing a few different therapists to want to find someone who works best with what you are looking for or build a positive rapport.

The first few sessions can provide insight towards if there is understanding and mutual respect. There is a lot of information gathering to begin with, however, it is important to guide the therapist towards obtaining an understanding of what you are looking for. Ideally, within the first few sessions, you can disclose your presenting concerns and move forward toward creating treatment goals and the plans of action towards achieving those goals. This process can present guidelines of the length of sessions, frequency of visits, and if other forms of therapy would be more beneficial, such as couple’s therapy or family therapy.

The key is to go in with an open mind and be honest and forthcoming in what you are looking for within talk therapy. If for some reason you are not feeling the rapport, it is essential that you address it and ask for additional referrals if the therapist feels they can provide someone else who could be a better fit. Therapy is meant to be individualized toward your needs and goals. It is important to work with the therapist to align your intentions for therapy and feel there is a safe place to alleviate the symptoms and achieve your overall goals.