How To Find A Therapist


Daniela Tempesta, LCSW

Therapy can be an essential part of the healing process when you are trying to mend a broken heart. However, in order to really get the most out of the experience it’s important to find the right therapist for you. Finding a good therapist is easier said than done.

After more than 15 years of seeing a variety of therapists myself, I’ve had my share of bad experiences. I once met with a therapist who greeted me at the door dripping sweat and dressed like Run DMC (sans gold chain), straight from the gym. And while I don’t think a therapist’s outfit is a reflection of competence, I do appreciate a person who cools down first and dresses in a professional manner. Then there was the therapist whose first question was “What’s wrong with you?” There is nothing more welcoming at the beginning of a session than judgment. Sheesh. And I still shiver when I remember the therapist who was consistently 10-20 minutes late to our early morning sessions, leaving me to freeze my butt off on the street waiting for him.

But don’t let me scare you off, I’ve also had amazing, life-altering, not-sure-what-I-would’ve-done-without-‘em therapists. So even if it sounds like you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your “theraprince,” the result is definitely worth it. Below you will find tips for starting your search. On Friday, I’ll dive into how to ensure they’re the right fit.

1. Factor Out Convenience and Cost Whenever Possible

Good therapy and convenient therapy are not the same. While it might be your instinct to ask yourself: “Who has an office near me? Who has appointments at times that are convenient for me? “How much do they cost?” this is not necessarily the best place to start. I’m not suggesting that you completely inconvenience and bankrupt yourself to get to therapy, but convenience and cost aren’t good enough reasons to choose someone. You wouldn’t pick a significant other or a job just out of convenience, would you? Then why would you pick the person you are going to trust with helping you heal the wounds of your relationship on convenience?

I encourage you to view therapy as an investment of time and money in the only asset you truly own: yourself. Most people don’t think twice about dropping dough on a gym membership, but are resistant to make the same financial commitment to their emotional health. Think of therapy as a gym membership for your mind. There are many more important selection criteria that can help guarantee a positive experience.

2. Ask People You Trust for Recommendations

Asking people you trust for recommendations is a great place to start. This could be a friend, family member, co-worker, or other health professional. If someone you trust can make a referral, this can act as a prescreening process. If your friend loves his or her therapist, but you don’t want to see the same person as your friend, ask him or her to ask the therapist for a list of trusted colleagues with a similar style. If you have a friend or family member who is a therapist, they would also be a good person to ask as well. Therapists tend to have good information about other reputable people.

3. Use the Web but Don’t Be Limited By It

The web is a great resource for locating and learning more about local therapists. Psychology Today has a very comprehensive listing of therapists and allows you to search based on several different factors. To be listed on Psychology Today, therapists must prove that they have an advanced degree and up-to-date professional license. You can read profiles or click through to websites to read more about who they are and what they offer. If you are immediately turned off by someone’s tone, listen to your gut and keep searching.

Just make sure you are looking in industry appropriate locations. For example, Yelp is great for restaurants but the same principle doesn’t apply to therapy. Finding a good therapist for you is a lot more nuanced than finding out which restaurant makes the best duck fat fried brussel sprouts. Most therapists do not have profiles or reviews on Yelp, and therapists who ask their clients to post reviews on Yelp are actually violating the ethics of the profession. Reputable therapists would never request that clients break their own confidentiality to grow their business (not to say that all people with reviews have specifically asked their clients to write them). If you rely on Yelp, you are getting a very small cross section of the good people who might actually be out there.

Lastly, some therapists, especially those who have been practicing for a long time, do not have websites. This doesn’t mean they aren’t good or don’t stay current with research, it usually just means that they stay busy enough without needing a web presence. So if you receive referrals you can’t cyberstalk, just pick-up the phone and ask them all of the questions you have.

Now that you are armed with some strategies for finding a therapist, I wish you the best of luck in your search. In the next Demystifying Therapy post, I’ll cover how to interview therapists once you’ve found them, and then I’ll share options for how to seek help with limited funds. Happy Therapist Hunting until then!

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