Choosing a therapist is a very big decision. The relationship that you will build with your therapist will grow and adapt, will transform the way you think and act, and will help you learn and unlearn many lessons. Choosing a therapist is not always done after the first therapist that you work with it. You may also find that you may be able to work with a particular therapist on one issue, but find that you may want to try someone else for a new issue or just after having taken a break from therapy.
Making a decision that is in alignment with your goals and values for therapy will allow you to choose a therapist that is right for you. So, here’s a look at how to choose a therapist.
Reasons to Seek Therapy
Let’s start with your reasons for wanting to seek therapy. It’s important to consider your goals and reasons for wanting to begin therapy. Are you looking to work through a current issue you’re having in your life? Examples may include deciding on changing careers, moving states/countries, or ending a relationship. Or are you looking to work on your healing and wholeness due to a recent break up or loss or even childhood trauma? Or maybe you’re just wanting some extra support, a place where you can safely explore your thoughts without judgement?
As you can see, there are quite a few different reasons to seek therapy. Some reasons may warrant a short therapy experience, while more deeply rooted issues will require a longer commitment to the process. There are also people who intermittently return to therapy to do check ins and wellness checks on themselves. So, they may return to the same therapist. It’s also completely okay to go to a new therapist. Be mindful that transferring to a new therapist requires you to start the process over. However, as each therapist has their own personal style, you may find that new therapists bring out different parts of you.
So, after you’ve decided to start, or to return to, therapy, you now need to decide where you will seek out a therapist. I’d like to say two of the most common ways to find new therapists are 1, through your insurance, and 2, by word of mouth.
If you have insurance, you’ll probably go straight to your provider directory and include your search criteria to locate a provider near you. And secondly, if you know anyone who has been in therapy, you may also reach out to them to inquire about their providers. This does not require them to disclose to you their reasons for seeing this provider. You only need to be concerned about this provider being a good fit for you.
Other options may include:
· Using a directory – there are quite a few directories that are available online. The most common ones include PsychologyToday and Goodtherapy. Other available options which are more geared towards groups of minorities includes Therapy for Black Girls, Inclusive Therapists, and Latinx Therapists.
· Using community resources – You can research community mental health organizations near you to help you get started.
· There are also online apps – There are digital platforms such as Talkspace and Betterhelp that offer mental health services. Additional digital platforms include Teen Counseling, Amwell, and Pride Counseling.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, teletherapy has dramatically increased in the last few years. The need for mental health providers has drastically increased and teletherapy provides a way to meet that need. Be sure to consider whether you are looking for the convenience of teletherapy based on your schedule and availability. Or if you prefer the traditional format of in-person face-to-face sessions. Or maybe you’re able to do a hybrid schedule where some of your sessions are in-person and some are virtual. Be sure to speak with the providers about their capabilities to ensure that your needs align.
Mental Health Providers
Once you get into the groove of searching for a therapist, you probably started to notice all the different letters following the various providers’ names. Although, providers are normally very good at clearly identifying themselves and their credentials, this can get confusing for many people.
The letters after the providers’ names refer to their credentials. For example, my titles, MS, NCC, LPC means that I have a Master of Science degree, which makes me a Master’s level clinician. I am a Nationally Certified Counselor – certified by the National Board of Certified Counselors. And most importantly, to be an independent clinician, you must be licensed by a governing state. Hence, I am a Licensed Professional Counselor.
The Ms oftentimes refer to the degrees, examples could be Master of Science, Master of Arts, and Master of Education. And for psychologists, they are required to be a PhD or PsyD, that is, a doctorate level. You’ll often seen variations of these degrees and licenses across states. As you navigate your own state, you’ll notice that the licenses are similar. In New Jersey, we are called LPCs, while in Florida, the therapists are referred to as Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHCs).
Additionally, there are of course, social workers and marriage and family therapists. There are Licensed Social Workers (LSWs) and Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs). Most people are very familiar with social workers as they oftentimes work in a wide range of capacities. There are Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) who specialize in using systemic approaches to family therapy, couples therapy, and individual therapy.
When you get in contact with a mental health professional, never be afraid to ask them about their credentials and their experiences to gain a better understanding of how they can help you in your own journey. Therapy is a very personalized and individualized journey. Your goal is to get the best experience out of the process no matter who you work with or however long you participate in the process.
If you’re interested in working together, please contact me to schedule a consultation today. If you have any questions at any time, do not hesitate to leave us a message here.