"I went therapist shopping recently. I went though five before I found the one I liked. Now I go weekly. It's one of the best decisions I've ever made."
These are two comments that were made to me recently. It seems these difficult, divisive times in our country are causing more people to reach out for psycho-emotional support.
Sometimes life is too hard to go it alone. Reaching out for help indeed can make a difference.
Once someone has agreed to get help, the next logical step is to find someone who can be helpful. This can be more easily said than done. I, for one, stayed with a clinician for several years—not because she was particularly phenomenal at what she did—but because we had decent rapport, I knew what to expect, and my insurance covered most of it.
Now money is not necessarily the reason to stick with a therapist, but finances certainly play a key role. I know many of the best therapists and counselors now only charge cash fees because insurance reimbursements are not as profitable. Ask if they work on a “sliding scale”. Many are willing to negotiate, especially if they need the business at the moment.
So what are some helpful tools for finding a therapist, counselor, or clinician?
- Ask around. Generally, you will find out right away who is not good. Bad reputations travel quickly. Having an idea of what you need support for (bereavement, substance use, depression, anxiety, relationship issues, etc.) will guide your process. Find a counselor who specializes in the area that you need help.
- If you have health insurance, contact your insurance provider. You can often find a listing of clinicians in your area. You also can confirm how much counseling your policy will cover and what your copay will be.
- Check with civic organizations, churches, synagogues, or community centers. Many such organizations have counselors on staff that carry various levels of credentialing and specialization. These services can be free or low-cost for constituents. This is a great alternative when finances are limited. If you do opt for faith-based counseling, just make sure that the organization you connect with actually syncs with your core values and beliefs.
- Call your local hospital or medical center. Many have outpatient clinics with psychiatrists or social workers. Many also have short-term programs running 4-12 weeks.
- Consider a support group. A support group can be a nice alternative to individual counseling as you are hearing the stories of others who have come through what you are currently experiencing. These support groups are usually free or sometimes pass a basket for a small, voluntary donation. Try your local chapters of NAMI, AA, NA, Alanon, Codependents Anonymous, or PFLAG. Give the group at least three tries before giving up. It usually takes that many visits to see the true value of the meeting.
Once you find the right person to help you, check their credentials. Social workers, psychologists, and licensed/certified therapists are required to post their credentials. You can usually Google them to find out if their credentials are current in your state of residence or if there are any pending actions against them.
There’s no silver bullet for finding the right person to help you. But I do know that it requires more than one visit to the same person. Healing always takes place in the context of relationship. Developing rapport with a qualified individual takes time. But it makes healing and recovery possible.