If you’re thinking about finding the right therapist, it’s likely you’ve already made a pretty big decision – that is to ask for help. If you’re still trying to figure out what therapy is all about, read more here.
Finding the right therapist is a process which can take some time and a little patience. You will probably look for a therapist with the help of a parent or guardian, or with another trusted adult. There are a few important things to consider when you think about working with a professional. Click through to learn more.
A good starting place for getting names of therapists is to talk to your health care provider, friends, trusted adults or a school counselor who might have worked with or know the reputation of professionals in your area. Once you have names from other people, you can decide whether this might be someone you’d like to work with or if you are ready to meet them to see if they are a good fit. Remember that just because a therapist was great for one person, it doesn’t mean you’ll have the same experience.
Look at their credentials
It is not very important what schools a counselor or therapist went to, but it is important to confirm that they have attended legitimate and certified training programs, meet standards of training for their profession, and are qualified to help you with an emotional condition. Licensed professionals who provide counseling include psychiatrists (MD), psychologists (PhD, PsyD), psychiatric nurse practitioners (MSN, BMHNP-BC), and licensed clinical social workers (MSW, LCSW). If you choose to work with a psychologist or social worker and need medication, they will help you find an MD or nurse practitioner who can prescribe medications for you and work closely with your therapist in your care, with your consent.
Do they have special areas of interest or training?
Some therapists obtain additional training or study in specialized areas – this can include specific problem areas (like eating disorders) or age groups; or special techniques (like cognitive behavior therapy), or alternative approaches. If you’re a teen, you might look for a therapist who likes to work with teens, if you’re interested in using meditation and relaxation as part of your therapy, or if you are curious about hypnosis, you can look to see if a therapist has that expertise to teach you.
Before you contact a therapist, it would be helpful to confirm if they accept your insurance. If they accept your insurance, you will probably be expected to make a co-pay contribution (the part you pay above what the insurance pays) for the cost of therapy. If a therapist doesn’t accept your insurance, you will be expected to cover the expense of therapy “out of pocket.” Some therapists are able to negotiate with you to come up with a fee for treatment that works for you and your family – this is called “sliding scale fee” – but you should discuss this before you make a commitment for treatment.
Counseling and therapy can take place in a private office, hospital, clinic or community center. A good setting is one that is in a convenient location (close to you, or close to transportation) and one that makes you feel safe and comfortable.
Review their privacy and confidentiality policies
Before you make a decision about a therapist, it would be good to have a specific and honest discussion with your parents and a mental health counselor about your expectations and ideas regarding confidential information that may come up in therapy. Most providers can agree to keep most information private except in cases where you might be a danger to yourself or others. It is good to try to talk about these things ahead of time, before the work begins.
Once you make a decision
When you decide to begin work with a therapist, your work in finding the right therapist is not quite over. Sometimes, even after all the time and consideration you put into finding and deciding on a therapist, it might take a few appointments with them to really know and confirm that you’ve found the right therapist for you. You really should give it a chance but even with the best intentions and effort, you might find that the person you’re working with is not the right fit. That’s OK – the work is about you, and the fit needs to be right.
You might be interested to know that lots of research shows that feeling comfortable with and understood by your therapist is a very important ingredient in the therapy being helpful to you!