It can be difficult enough to decide to begin therapy in the first place, but then you need to decide which therapist to see. You may even need to meet with several therapists before finding someone who’s a good fit for you. Where do you begin?
Why Do You Want Therapy?
Before you ever reach out to prospective therapists, it is important to understand what you are hoping to get out of therapy:
- What is the problem you are trying to fix?
- What does this problem look like in your day-to-day life?
- How is the problem impacting the different parts of your life, such as work, school and family?
- What result would you like to get from therapy?
- If therapy is “successful,” how will your life be different?
Once you have some idea of what you need from therapy, you can start looking into options that are available, either in your local area or remotely. The American Psychological Association has a search tool that can be used to locate providers. A simple web search for mental health treatment in your area can also yield multiple options. Read reviews. Talk with friends who go to therapy to get their recommendations.
Therapy can be delivered in a variety of ways, and sometimes different types of therapy work better for certain diagnoses, ages, or personality types. Generally, a therapist’s website will tell you what types of therapy they utilize, so that you can ensure you find someone whose methods will work for you. These are just a few examples of the different types of therapy that exist:
- Play Therapy – generally used with small children who are still developing their language skills and who may be better able to learn and share their feelings through play. Dolls, blocks, board games and other toys may be used for therapeutic purposes.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – often used to treat conditions in which a person is trying to unlearn behaviors that aren’t serving them and learn new ways of perceiving the world around them. Conversation, role-playing, and practicing mental relaxation strategies during sessions are common. Therapists may give out homework such as worksheets, journaling, or reading to be completed between sessions.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – this technique is often considered the first choice to treat people with emotional intensity disorder, though it can also be useful for treating particularly difficult cases of depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, eating disorders and urges to self-harm. DBT is often delivered in groups but may also be completed individually, with just the patient and therapist.
- Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – this newer therapeutic method is primarily used to treat trauma and to specifically help a person stop being triggered by traumatic events from their past. Some of the most common patients in EMDR are foster children and combat veterans. EMDR is completed in individual sessions and can be particularly emotionally intense for the person undergoing therapy.
If your insurance doesn’t cover mental health therapy, other options may be available.
- Employee Assistance Program – EAP may be a benefit someone receives from their job, and it can include free therapy sessions for employees and possibly even their spouses and children. In order to learn more about this benefit, you may need to reach out to your company’s human resources department. Using EAP would mean that you would need to see a therapist who accepts the company’s EAP benefits, and only a limited number of sessions would be covered.
- Private Pay – This method requires cash payment, generally at the time that the services are rendered. One benefit of this option is that generally the patient can see any therapist they choose. For people who do not have insurance but cannot afford to pay full price for therapy, some therapists offer a sliding fee scale, adjusting the cost of therapy according to income.
Once you think you have found a therapist whose modality will work for you and whom you can afford to see, it is important to meet with them to determine whether you are compatible. A therapist can have a wealth of knowledge and years of experience, but if you don’t feel comfortable being open with them about your struggles, they aren’t going to be able to help you.
A therapist who assigns a lot of homework will be relying on you to complete it in order to make progress in your sessions. If you know you won’t follow through on completing worksheets or journaling at home, it is important to be honest about this.
If you find that you don’t feel comfortable with the therapist, it’s perfectly acceptable to end the relationship (even if you’ve already had a few sessions) and try someone else. Your therapist may also decide that a different therapist would better suit your needs and recommend someone else for you to try.
If you have additional questions about how to find a therapist who is a good fit for you, Highland Hospital in West Virginia is happy to provide guidance.