In my therapy private practice, I work with women with a wide variety of concerns. However, one common thread is how difficult it is for them to find their way into therapy. Whether it’s getting lost in lengthy lists of therapists provided by insurance companies or getting confused by the alphabet soup of degrees and types of therapists, finding a therapist can feel daunting.
Not to mention, as busy moms, making time for our own needs often comes last on the priority list. Thankfully, there are ways to simplify the process and make sure you get the mental health support you deserve as quickly and simply as possible.
Step 1: Find Referral Options
I recommend pulling together a list of 5 to 10 therapists as a starting point. There are lots of great ways to get referrals. Read on for some ideas.
- Ask a friend, or better yet, ask a friend to ask their therapist for referrals.
- Ask a trusted medical provider such as your primary care doctor, midwife, or OB who they refer to.
- Ask another trusted person in your life such as a beloved yoga teacher, acupuncturist, your doula, a teacher, or mentor. If you are in a mom’s group, ask the other moms or your group leader
- Try an online therapy directory such as psychology today or goodtherapy where you can search by location, specialty, insurance, or a host of other search criteria.
Step 2: Narrow Down Your List
At this point, try and hone your list down to around 5 therapists to reach out to. There are lots of ways to narrow down your list based on criteria that are important to you. Here are some things to think about.
- Location, location, location: You will typically be meeting with your therapist once a week so make sure you are thoughtful around where the therapist is located.
- Specialty: Most therapists are trained as generalists but go on to specialize in treating specific populations, conditions, or get expertise in a particular treatment modality.
- Degree: There are many different ways to become licensed and credentialed as a therapist. The most common degrees you will see are M.D. for psychiatrist, PhD or PsyD for psychologists, LCSW for social workers, LPC for licensed professional counselor, and LMFT for licensed marriage and family therapist. You can read here for a good description of what each degree entails.
- Therapist Characteristics: It is totally OK to have preferences about what type of therapist you see. You may prefer to see a therapist of a particular gender, who conducts therapy in a particular, or who appears to be older and younger than you. It’s OK to be selective.
Step 3: Start Making Calls
I’d recommend reaching out to at least 3 to 5 therapists who are you interested in learning more about. Most therapists will ask to speak to you on the phone before setting up a consultation appointment. You should always feel free to ask for time to speak on the phone. Use this time to get some basic questions answered and also to see how well you gel over the phone. In addition to confirming that the therapist is taking new patients and has appointment times that could work for you, read on for some ideas on what to ask.
- Do you work with people like me who are experiencing _____?
- What strategies do you use to treat __________?
- What type of therapy do you practice?
- How often do you see patients?
- How long does therapy last?
Step 4: Attend Consultations Appointments
I recommend scheduling between 1 to 3 consultation appointments with a few therapists. It may seem like more work, but it is so hard to predict over the phone which therapist you will connect with. Research has consistently established that the most important predictor of a successful therapy outcome is a good connection to and relationship with their therapist. When finding a therapist, a good connection is crucial. Some questions to ask yourself during and after the appointment.
- Did I feel listened to by this therapist?
- Did I feel judged?
- Did I feel comfortable speaking to this therapist?
- How did the connection feel?
- Do I think I could be honest and open with this person?
Step 5: Begin Therapy
Hopefully, this guide to finding a therapist simplifies things for you and takes some of the guesswork out of finding good support.