It’s exciting to live in a time where mental health is becoming destigmatized and people are supported and encouraged in getting the help they need. On the other hand, this has amplified the struggle many experience in finding a provider. Finding a qualified therapist with availability who is in network with your insurance is no easy feat, especially right now. Waitlists for new clients are longer than ever before. Sometimes when we need it most, therapy can feel out of reach.
So where do you start? If you plan to utilize insurance, your insurance company can usually provide you with a directory of in network providers. Insurance coverage can vary so make sure you are aware of any out of pocket costs such as deductibles and co-pays. Many providers offer telehealth appointments which can allow you access to therapists outside of your immediate area, but they still must be licensed in the state which you reside. If you don’t have or choose not to utilize insurance, most therapists will offer private pay rates as well. There are also community agencies, like Lakes Center, who are able to offer a sliding fee scale to ensure therapy is accessible and affordable for everyone.
Your primary care provider can be a helpful resource and will likely be able to provide you with referrals. Maybe try asking friends or family who have knowledge around therapy or have had great experiences with a particular therapist. Online therapist directories like Psychology Today are great sources for finding a therapist as they allow you to search and filter therapists by various criteria including presenting issue, insurance, gender, spiritual or religious affiliations, price and therapeutic modalities.
As you search for the right therapist, you want to identify therapists that address what you are wanting to work on. There are lots of reasons to consider seeing a therapist. Maybe you feel depressed or anxious. Maybe you have experienced something traumatic, or want to heal through traumas experienced at an earlier point in your life. Maybe you are looking for family therapy, or couples therapy. Be as specific as possible with what you are looking for in therapy, so you can seek out a therapist who matches your goals. That’s not to say you always know, many times people come to therapy not knowing what they want- just knowing they aren’t feeling well or life isn’t going how they want it to. Therapy can be a step forward and help clients identify what they need.
Try not to get bogged down in the different professional degrees that a therapist can have – Ph.D., Psy.D, LMFT, LPCC, etc. Any therapist who is licensed in your state has gone through rigorous background checks and training. Also, therapists have an ethical obligation to practice within our scope, meaning that if a therapist isn’t qualified to treat what brings you to therapy, they will provide referrals and resources to direct you towards a more appropriate fit.
Most therapists will offer brief (and free!) consultations, to allow you a chance to meet and ask any questions you might have. I encourage people to utilize this to get a feel for the therapist. Some people need a therapist who is gentle and affirming, others prefer a therapist who is slightly more direct. I suggest identifying three or four therapists who accept your insurance/financial needs and work with what it is you are seeking therapy for. Call or send an email to each and schedule initial consultations. Ask questions as to their style, approaches and availability.
Most importantly, when looking for a therapist be sure to listen to yourself. Do you feel rapport and connection with this person? Is this someone you can see yourself being open and vulnerable with? Your relationship with your therapist- referred to as the therapeutic alliance- will be the most significant factor in how helpful therapy is for you. When you find someone you feel comfortable with, and you feel as though that person is invested in you and your goals, you’re much more likely to benefit from therapy.
Rebecca Bowers, MA LMFT
Individual & Family Therapist
Lakes Center for Youth and Families