So you’ve made the decision that you’re ready to try therapy. Now the hard part…how to find a therapist! There are so many different mental health care providers out there. And it can feel overwhelming and confusing to know where to look! So today, I’m sharing the inside scoop on five super, simple ways to get started and find a therapist.
1.Check out Psychology Today’s directory. Once you’re on the homepage, click on the “find a therapist” tab. From there, you can enter your zip code, and voila, a list of therapists in your area will pop up.
You can filter results by all sorts of criteria, including gender, area of expertise, and insurance accepted. In addition, can also filter for therapists in your area or state that offer online therapy. You can also read provider bios, check out photos, and learn more about their approach to therapy.
Quick sidenote, therapists have to pay to be included in this directory, so you won’t see every provider in your area. You’ll only see the therapists that pay the small monthly fee to be included in this list. Nonetheless, lots of providers are listed here. So if you’re wondering how to find a therapist, this is an awesome place to start.
2.Check with your health insurance provider. If you have health insurance and are planning to use it to help cover the cost of therapy, contact your health insurance provider. Ask for them for a list of in-network mental health care providers. This is typically insurance slang for “people we’ll pay for you to see.” This list is likely to be long and somewhat overwhelming, so just consider it a starting point. Then you can compare this list with online profiles and reviews.
A quick note about online reviews, therapists aren’t allowed to solicit online reviews from clients. It’s against our ethics code. Mental health professionals put a huge value on the therapeutic relationship, so we never want to do anything that would jeopardize this. We never want our clients to feel pressured to leave a public or positive review.
In addition, there’s still somewhat of a stigma around seeking mental health treatment. This means that many people don’t want to leave a public review about therapy. So, don’t be surprised if you don’t see a lot of online reviews for a therapist you want to see.
3.Ask friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. This tip might sound like a no brainer, but a lot of people forget this step! These are the people in your circle, and they’re people you know well. You probably have a good idea about their judgement, style, and taste, so their recommendations will carry more weight.
When we moved to the Chicago area nearly nine years ago, I had to find all new service and healthcare providers. A new hair stylist, a new dermatologist, a new dentist, a new primary care doctor, a new dry cleaner…you get the picture.
And you know how I found all of those people? I asked the people I worked with and lived near. Sure, asking about a dry cleaner is less personal than asking about a therapist, but it’s the same process. Sometimes, it can feel a little scary to ask people for a referral. Perhaps you don’t want anyone to know you’re going to therapy. So, if you have to pull the whole “my friend is trying to find a therapist” card, that’s okay too.
4.Call your nearest college counseling center. Think college counseling centers are just for students? Well, in truth, they mostly are. However, college counseling centers usually keep tailored and up to date lists of therapists in the area. So Google the closest college or university to you, followed by the word “counseling.”
Once you have a result, call their office and say something like this. “Hi, my name is Allison, and I live in the area. I’m trying to find a therapist, and I know college counseling centers often keep a list of local providers. Could you please pass along some names of local providers? I would really appreciate it.” While they aren’t guaranteed or obligated to help, most centers will be happy to help point you in the right direction.
5.If you know an acquaintance in the mental health field, ask them if they know anyone in your area. Even if you mental health professional friend doesn’t live in your area, they will likely know providers in various parts of the country. Most of us have gone to school and done additional training for several years, and we’ve met and trained with lots of people along the way. Many of us have gone in different directions, spreading all across the world, so there’s a chance we know someone in your area!
And, if you’re concerned about stigma, you can rest assured, we won’t judge. We spent a lot of time and money investing into our field, and most of us have spent time as clients in therapy, so we believe in it!
Finding a mental health provider can be tricky, but like the cliché says, recognizing you need help is the first step. Hopefully, the second step, finding a provider, now feels a little bit more manageable!
PS: Wondering what to expect at your first therapy appointment? Here’s an idea of what you can expect.