We’ve covered the most important things you need to know about therapy and the right therapist. Now, let’s talk about how exactly to find a therapist. I’ll start by outlining the process.
How To Find A Therapist
- Write down exactly what you’re looking for in a therapist.
- Go online, find 15-20 candidate therapists, and call all of them. Email or message as many of these therapists as possible.
- Over the next week, these therapists will return your calls.
- Have free 10-minute consultation calls with at least 3 therapists.
- Shortlist 2 therapists and see both of them for 1 session.
- Pick 1 therapist to keep seeing.
- 2-3 sessions in to seeing the therapist, give them feedback if necessary and reevaluate.
- If needed, start over and find a new therapist.
I’m going to be honest with you - this process is time-consuming and tedious. If everything goes well, it’ll still take you 2-3 weeks. For any number of reasons, it could take up to a couple of months to find a therapist. It’s harder to find a therapist in-network or if you have very specific requirements. You might find the right therapist, but they have a waitlist. Or after a few sessions, you find out the therapist you selected just isn’t a good fit.
Like I said, this will be like applying to college or a competitive job. But, it’s absolutely worth it. Let’s go over each of the steps.
The Two Biggest Mistakes People Make When Looking For A Therapist
You may be surprised by the numbers mentioned above: reach out to 15-20 therapists, talk to at least 3 therapists on the phone, see 2 therapists in person. However, this is absolutely necessary.
The two biggest mistakes people make when looking for a therapist are:
not reaching out to enough therapists
seeing the first therapist they have a decent phone call with
Don’t make these mistakes.
First, finding a therapist is a numbers game. It’s hard to find a therapist. A lot of people reach out to 2 or 3 therapists, don’t hear back, and then stop looking. That’s why you have to reach out 15-20 therapists.
Second, remember - the right therapist really matters! Especially for people who are new to therapy, it can be hard to know whether a therapist is right for you. Having just 1 or 2 points of comparison is really helpful. We’ve heard so many people say things like “I only found out how bad my first therapist was once I started seeing another therapist”. Instead of only finding out a therapist isn’t right for you several sessions in, or being stressed that you might not have chosen the right therapist, you can quickly compare therapists up front.
That’s why we say talk to at least 3 therapists on the phone and see 2 in person.
Write Down What You’re Looking For
First, write down exactly what you’re looking for in a therapist. The reason is so you don’t have to make decisions on the fly, as you’re looking for or talking to therapists.
Like I said, we can’t know exactly what matters to you, but you probably have a couple of things you really care about.
To recap what we talked about earlier:
What style of therapy do you prefer? Do you prefer CBT, which is structured, therapist-directed, and solution-focused, psychodynamic therapy, which is unstructured, directed by you, and about self-exploration, or you aren’t sure?
Do you have preferences when it comes to the therapist’s:
anything else about the therapist
Do you need a specialist? Are you dealing with a unique situation, such as an eating disorder, ADHD, or parenting, for which you need a therapist?
Here are some additional criteria to keep in mind:
When are you available to see a therapist? If you don’t have a point of view on this, you may end up picking an inconvenient time, and you’ll eventually stop going. Most therapists are open from 9-5 on weekdays, but some have evening and weekend availability.
How far are you willing to commute to see a therapist?
Do you want to use insurance?
If you don’t want to use insurance, or can’t find a provider in-network, how much are you willing to pay per session? I’ll cover finances in the next section. But, if you want to use insurance, know that you may not be able to find a provider in-network, and you should think about whether and how much you’re willing to pay out-of-pocket beforehand.
Finally, write down anything else you want in your therapy.
You don’t have to have a point of view on every factor right now. Most factors don’t matter to each person, and even if you’re unsure about some factors now, you’ll quickly develop preferences as you go through the process. Also, you may discover some factors you think are important aren’t you start seeing a therapist.
You might not be able to find someone who meets all your criteria, but it’s good to know what you’re looking for.
- It’ll take at least 2-3 weeks to find a therapist.
- Don’t make the mistake of not reaching out to enough therapists. Call at least 15-20 therapists.
- Don’t make the mistake of picking the first therapist you have a decent phone call with. Comparing therapists is really important. Talk to at least 3 therapists on the phone. See at least 2 therapists in person.
- Write down what you’re looking for in therapy.
- Questions to answer:
- What style of therapy do you prefer?
- Do you have preferences when it comes to the therapist’s:
- sexual identity
- anything else about the therapist
- Do you need a specialist?
- When are you available to see a therapist?
- How far are you willing to commute to see a therapist?
- Do you want to use insurance?
- If you don't want to use insurance, or can't find a provider in-network, how much are you willing to pay per session?
- Is there anything else that matters to you?