Making the decision to enter therapy, whether for the first time or after a break, usually means finding a therapist. For many people, this first step is a real challenge because there are simply so many questions: Where do I look? Who do I ask? How do I know who to trust? What kind of therapist do I need?
Finding the right therapist is not like finding a good internist or veterinarian. People tend to be very comfortable asking friends, family, and other local contacts for recommendations of general health care and service providers. With social media, we don’t even have to ask people individually. We hop onto Facebook and ask, and the recommendations and warnings come pouring in. But therapy is highly individualized, intimate, and private. Ultimately, that means people tend not to want to go to the same therapist as their sister or officemate. Likewise, people often won’t offer their own therapist’s information, because they are uncomfortable with their therapist working with others in their lives.
So the question of, “How do I find a good therapist?” isn’t such a simple one. There is no one right way to go about this. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind as you seek a counselor:
1. Ask for recommendations. Whether you’re comfortable posting your search on Facebook or whether you ask people individually, it is ok to ask people for therapist recommendations. Often, when someone has a therapist with whom s/he has had a good experience and connection, even if that person would prefer you not see his or her own therapist, s/he will gladly refer you to the therapist’s office if it’s a group practice. This is a great place to start.
2. Use the Internet. There are some great listings sites, such as Psychology Today, that offer listings of all different types of mental health professionals and provide you with the opportunity to read a bit about each practitioner or office. Search by your local area, and get a feel for who your local providers are. Pick a few who appeal to you, and call or email them to request a free consultation. Reputable, responsible practitioners will gladly provide a 15-minute, free, no-obligation, confidential consultation during which you can tell the therapist a bit about yourself and your main concerns and s/he can give you an idea of how s/he tends to operate. It’s a good chance to see if, basically, you get a good vibe off of the therapist and feel a solid rapport right away or if you and the practitioner are just not on the same wavelength.
3. Learn the Terms. Sometimes people pass up on good practitioners because they aren’t familiar with the mental health field’s terminology. For example, sometimes people see, “Pre-Licensed Professional,” and think, “This person isn’t even a licensed therapist. I need someone more experienced, and I bet my insurance won’t pay for someone without a license.” In fact, many skilled practitioners who have been in practice for upwards of five years are still working toward licensure. This is extremely common and has no bearing on whether an insurance company will reimburse your session fees.
There are numerous other terms you may see during your search such as, LPC, CT, MA, NCP, MS, LCSW, MFCC, PsyD, and LCW. These credentialing letters all indicate different degrees the therapist has earned. Some practitioners may list themselves as a psychotherapist, therapist, counselor, or psychologist as well. While each credential and each title demonstrates something about the counselor’s background, what’s ultimately important is the person’s areas of expertise and experience. So take the time to read up on each person’s specializations and perspectives, and talk to your potential therapists about their level of experience helping people whose concerns and challenges are similar to your own.
Once you’ve taken the time to inform yourself, you’re ready to start making initial calls for consultations. Subscribe to the Sanctuary Counseling Blog (see link to the right) for more on this topic, as next time, we’ll discuss the Top Five Questions to Ask A Potential Therapist.
At Sanctuary Counseling, Berks County residents and people from all along the 422 corridor come to us for personal therapy as part of their own individual journeys toward whole-self wellness. We are invested in our community and the wellbeing of its members. If you are looking for a counselor, please give us a call. We’ll listen to you, and we will help you find a therapist with whom you will have a true and honest connection. If for some reason Sanctuary isn’t the right fit for you, we will always help you find the place (and the person) that is. You are welcome here.
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