Best Therapist: Finding the Right Fit
Having trouble finding the best therapist for your needs or that meshes with your personality? Below are my tips for simplifying the process of finding the right mental health professional for your concerns. Let’s dive in!
Preparation: Before Researching Therapists
In times of distress, you may be tempted to call and start treatment with any therapist who is available on short-notice or who accepts your insurance. However, even before researching therapists online, first slow down to consider what you need. You’ll avoid headaches, get better results, and maybe even save money in the process. Start by answering the following:
- What are the most pressing concerns now? Do any past issues also affect today’s troubles?
- Are you comfortable using insurance for psychological help and the reduced privacy and control in treatment? Can you afford to self pay to better protect this control and privacy?
- How long are you willing to engage in treatment? Six sessions? Six months? As long as necessary? Be honest with yourself on this.
- Do you have particular scheduling requirements? What flexibility might you have to make daytime appointments (e.g. starting work later, extended lunch, paid time off, etc)?
- Do you believe therapy is a collaborative relationship, or are you more looking for someone with expertise to tell you what to do?
- If you seek a child therapist, is it possible that you need parenting support as well or that a whole family approach could be better?
After reflecting on and answering the above, you will quickly narrow in on the best therapists for your concerns and who has a style you’re comfortable with. Equally important, you will more readily know who is not a good fit. Especially if you are committed to a deeper process of healing, you won’t want to use up valuable time, money, and emotional energy on the wrong therapist. This preparation will pay off.
Getting Closer to that Best Therapist
Zeroing in on the best therapist for you shouldn’t actually be too challenging after answering the above questions. For example, if you 100% know that you need a therapist who accepts your insurance, you can contact your carrier for in-network providers. If you strongly prefer a male therapist, filtering by this criteria will cut the names by more than half.
Much of how therapists present themselves will also reveal a good deal about what you can expect from them. If they have a professional website, you generally get a better chance to judge their personality and whether you ‘click’ with them. How well you relate and work with your therapist is a critical factor in the success of your treatment. The best therapist isn’t always the one with the most degrees or latest treatment methods. Much of it comes down to how you connect.
Searching Online for a Therapist
If you quickly Google something like “who is the best therapist in Davis”, chances are you’ll see directories like Psychology Today or Good Therapy at the top of the results. It’s tempting to go to these one-stop shops to compare among various therapists. While this tactic has some merit, directory searching can be like searching for a needle in a haystack, particularly in areas saturated with therapists, counselors, social workers, and psychiatrists.
So, what’s an alternative? An arguably better strategy is simply using a search engine like Google and entering keywords. For example, If you’re looking for a “trauma therapist in Davis” or an “eating disorder therapist“, putting these specific terms in the search, along with location, can quickly narrow the results considerably. Entering keywords into search engines may get closer to your best-fit therapist faster than directory browsing. Start specific; if you don’t get enough results, simply broaden the terms.
There is still value to directories, however. Despite the time it may take to sift through them, you’ll get quick glimpses into a number of therapists and can give you clues as to whose personality, specialty, and approach fit with what you need and want. You can filter the search by treatment issue, whether they take your insurance, therapist gender, etc. As well, not all therapists have their own website, even some high-caliber professionals I know.
Word of Mouth: Asking Your Friends/Family
If you’re not guarded about seeking help, asking friends or family for recommended therapists is a decent starting point. You’ll get a direct scoop on who they know, trust, or consider to be the best therapist. Remember, however, that therapists are not one-size-fits-all and what may have worked for someone else may not work for you. Unless your clinical concern is similar, that therapist may not have the specialty and background to help you as well as another professional. Your personalities may also mesh differently. I encourage you to do your own homework and use consultation calls to screen any referrals. At the end of the day, this is your treatment.
Insurance Directories for In-Network Providers
If you need an in-network therapist, a fast way to find a therapist is to contact your insurance company. Sometimes you can look them up online through the insurance website. Caution: online directories and therapist websites may not have up-to-date information. Also, consolidation in the insurance market has led to some confusion about coverage and network status of providers. Again, check with the insurance company for the final word.
Consider Out-of-Network Benefits!
Some plans have benefits that allow you to still receive reimbursement when treated by a therapist who is out-of-network. Before you assume you have to see someone who accepts your insurance (i.e. paneled / in-network), check your coverage. And ask your preferred therapists if they will create a statement to submit to insurance for reimbursement. This can save you good money while still allowing you to see the therapist of your choice.
Selecting the Best Therapist for You
OK, so you’ve narrowed the list and found some therapists that meet your key criteria. After all that, you have two to three strong possibilities. Now what? Call for a consultation!
Most therapists offer free phone consultations (or sometimes in-person) so both of you can assess the fit. This makes sense considering the significant investment of money and emotional energy involved. As a consumer, you would be wise to seek answers to the following:
- Confirm that the information you learned about their expertise, fees and insurances they accept, treatment approach, etc is still accurate.
- How well does the therapist communicate in this first interaction? Do they listen attentively, empathize with your situation, and instill hope for change?
Keep in mind, this brief and free encounter (typically 15-30 minutes) is not therapy. Accordingly, the therapist cannot (and should not) make promises about what will work for you because they have not assessed you yet. Assessment is completed in the first few sessions and the treatment plan grows out of that process. However, the therapist can give you some idea of different approaches that could be considered for your presenting issues.
Making the Decision
At this point, you have reflected on what you need and want. You have narrowed down the list of promising therapists. You screened the top few during the consultation and now find yourself at a decision-point. Who do you go with? This may sound trite but… I recommend going with your gut. The best therapist will likely be the one you relate to well and in whom you have confidence. After meeting in-person, if it doesn’t seem to be a good fit after all, you have the other good prospects to consider.
Need Help Navigating the Maze?
Are you trying to identify the best therapist for you and could use some help? Feel free to send me a message or call me at (530) 220-2909. I’m here as a resources to help you shorten the path to the best-fit mental health professional for your journey. Matching individuals and families to great therapists is immensely rewarding because I know how critical that match is to healing.