9 Steps to Finding a Therapist

If you have decided that your life could be enhanced, then perhaps you’ve decided to find a therapist.  One of the questions I’m asked most often is “How do I find a good therapist?”

Isn’t it ironic that finding a therapist is so difficult?  Reminds me of finding a good mate or becoming a good parent.   It’s difficult.  But after a couple of decades in the business, I’ve learned a few things.

And I’m happy to share them:

  1. Ask for references from people you respect.  But remember you are trying to embark on an intimate relationship, so other peoples’ opinions aren’t as important as your own.
  2. Talk to the potential therapist on the phone or ask for a free appointment.  Even thirty minutes is usually enough for you to tell if you can work with this person.  And if they don’t want to give you a few minutes, you’ve learned  something as well.  Remember, you’re going to be talking about deep issues of your life.  If they can’t give you thirty minutes up front, or a freebie, you have powerful information about their opinions about you and them.
  3. Are they abrasive?  Too ‘nice’?   Too religious?  Not of your faith?  We all come to this relationship from our own place and history, so don’t be afraid to ask questions of the therapist about their background.
  4. I’m always leery about a therapist who can promise the world.  If he or she guarantees they can help with anything and everything, I’d be shaking my head.  The human mind and personality are extremely complex.  Add human experience to the mix and the variables become enormous.  It has been my experience that education in psychology and social work is usually focused as is our experience.  Why on earth would a person think they can handle anything and everything?  Medical doctors specialize, why wouldn’t therapists?  And if they don’t, why don’t they?
  5. Potential clients are often baffled by the models in this world.  Each therapist swears that their method is the best.  But research by Scott Miller suggests that none of that matters.  After years of study, Scott asserts that the outcome of therapy can be determined by the fourth session and it’s determined solely by the degree of trust the client feels for the therapist.  So if you’re not comfortable with your therapist after a session or two, suck up your costs and leave.  Find another person to work with.
  6. How do you feel in that person’s office?  Comfortable?  Anxious?  Scared?  Some of these feelings are normal.  After all, you didn’t come here because everything in your life is the way you want it to be.  But NEVER ignore your intuition.  Not all therapists are good people.  Some are pure evil.  Some mean well but have no talent to work with you.  Listen to your gut and follow your heart.
  7. Always find out about hourly fees and over run costs. If you go over your one hour, what will the cost be?  How much does your insurance company pay?  I’ve had people say they can’t afford my fees (I’m an independent operator and not covered by corporate health insurance), but then they find out their firm only covers half a dozen appointments.  If you’re dealing with a serious problem $500 will get you started, but not much more.  And if that therapist’s fees are more than those of one who is not covered, figure out how long will it take you to start saving money.  For example, a therapist charges you $150 an hour and another is $100.  The former is covered for 5 appointments covered by insurance, then after that you’re looking at $150 an hour.  You save $750 on the first five appointments but after that, the additional $50 an hour will add up pretty quick, particularly if you’re looking at long term therapy.
  8. If you’re told that a lifetime of problems will be solved in a few appointments, take a deep breath.  In my experience, deep seated problems are not rooted out that quickly.  Often we don’t know what we’re doing that is causing the problem.  That depth of discovery takes time.

Remember, this is your life.  Nothing here is written in stone.  You have to find your own way.  I am trying simply to give you the benefit of years in therapy rooms, both as a therapist and as a client.  Ask questions and check the fit in this relationship.  You are the customer.  And you’re the one who is paying for the service whether directly or indirectly.

It is important to be honest with yourself and the therapist as you explore your life.  If you’re worried about costs or resist coming to each appointment, you’re not getting the full benefit of the help you need.  Be good to yourself.  You’re worth it.

About Louise Behiel

Author, coach, therapist, mother and grandmother. I'm on a spiritual journey and consciously work to grow every day.
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13 Responses to 9 Steps to Finding a Therapist

  1. Louise I can’t thank you enough for sharing this information with us. We never know when we might need outside help with a professional. Or course it’s good to know that you’re around. 🙂

    There’s no shame in getting help. All of us are carrying around stuff from the past. No one has had a perfect life. But this is a subject that some people are not comfortable talking about. Like it puts some kind of label on the person.

    Both my husband and I at one time or another have talked with a professional. And the changes we all would like to make take time because our subconscious is so strong and our ego gets in the way.

    Fantastic post Louise. I’ll go tweet! See you soon! 🙂

  2. What fantastic pointers, Louise. Having worked with several therapist, I’ve learned that they vary greatly in personality, approach and how they run their practice. I wish everyone had annual therapy exams the way many of us have annual physicals. Thanks for doing the beautiful work you do, as a therapist and a writer.

  3. Some really good info here! My sister-in-law is a psychologist and is interested in going “indie” as you are, and this sort of info would be great to share with prospective clients. I’ll bet your point about how many visits does an insurance plan cover vs. how many visits one’s likely to need is one most people don’t think about!

    • Jennette, I tell my clients this info at the first meeting – whether on the phone or in person. I hate to sound mercenary, but the cost is always an issue. this work isn’t usually quick and so best to factor in the cost before you start.

      • Jennette, Please feel free to pass my info along to your Sister-in-law. although our jurisdictions are different many of the business things are the same, so I’m happy to help out. she can send me an email from my contact page.

  4. Debra Kristi says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this information Louise. It is something that every family should know and be armed with should they need it. You never know when you might want or need to take that step. Too many people are still afraid to admit they need that help and it’s a shame. Our minds need care just as our bodies do. Wonderful post.

  5. Thanks for stopping by Debra. Yes, I think we all need ‘tune ups’ now and then. It’s not that we’re broken but rather that we want to live more exceptional lives.

  6. Louise, speaking from my experiences in therapy, you should never be afraid to leave and find a new therapist if your first choice isn’t your cup of tea. Thanks for mentioning this point. My first therapist was somewhat helpful, but very religious, talked about himself a lot, and couldn’t seem to separate his advice to me from his faith. I was okay that he was so religious, but there were moments when I felt uncomfortable with how often religion came up. It wasn’t a good fit. I started seeing a new therapist, and we made a lot more progress because the environment felt safer and more open.

  7. iceman18 says:

    Well put! Your guidelines help narrow the funnel and illuminate the coveted 20% or so, of capable therapist. Then it’s just a matter of finding the right chemistry in a therapy relationship that works best for you.
    On my journey to find the right therapist, I became aware of the fact that many of these people entered thier profession because they were motivated by their own life experiences that had required therapeutic intervention. I found that the best ones had done the hard work, were at peace and understanding with their own issues, and therefore were able to be fully present for you. They are focused and present for their clients, without drifting off into personal unresolved issues that your sessions might invoke.

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