I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been in therapy for the majority of my life. Because of that, I’ve experienced my fair share of mental health professionals and have picked up some tips and tricks on how to find the best professional for me! I understand that talking about mental health is very taboo in our society, but I would like to break down that barrier and start important conversations like this one. I’ve experienced the frantic panic of not knowing where to begin when it comes to searching for a mental health professional, so I’ve put together these 6 tips to make the process less stressful for you!
For the purpose of this post, instead of typing out “mental health professional” every 5 seconds, I will say “therapist”. Obviously we know there are lots of different names for mental health professionals (Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Psychologist, etc.) but to make it easy on everyone I figured I would just stick with one word!
1. Check your insurance coverage and available funds
This is a big one as not every insurance provider allows for mental health visits. Some insurance companies, although they allow mental health visits, only give the insured person a certain number of visits that they will cover. It’s always best to ask questions and do research for your personal insurance plan before starting any of the other steps. It’s also important to do a quick search to see which therapists are in or out of your network. This will alleviate potential issues and headaches with your insurance company down the road.
As a recent college grad who is still paying back student loans, I understand what it’s like to be strapped for cash. I’ve had to readjust my budget to allocate for my co-pay at my therapists office- but I understand that it may not be as easy as taking funds out of an expendable income for everyone. I recognize that I am privileged in the way that I both have insurance and am able to afford my co-pay for my mental health visits, but if I was not able to, I would look for alternative routes for mental health care.
For folks who don’t have time or the means to drive to an office, don’t have insurance, or don’t have the funds to physically visit a therapists office I would recommend Talkspace, a web and app based therapy service (btw- not sponsored by them or anything, I’ve just heard genuinely good things about them!). On their site they say that care can be as low as $32 per week. Again, I know it’s not doable for everyone, but it’s another avenue to pursue.
2. Decide if you want to talk to a male or female
For me this was a big deal. Nothing against male therapists, but I just feel more comfortable talking with women. I totally recognize that both male and female therapists get the same training, take the same classes, and get the same certifications and licenses, but for the things I’ve gone to therapy for, I’ve always felt that a woman would be able to understand more- not just because they could help me figure out what was going on in my brain, but also because, perhaps, they themselves had experienced the same things I had and could relate to me on a more personal level. It may be the complete opposite for you and that’s totally ok! Always remember to do what you feel is best for you, don’t just base your decision off of some random girl on the internet! 🙂
3. Ask family and friends for referrals
I know this may be hard for most people, but I’ve gotten some of the best therapist recommendations from friends and family. Now, if you know me then you know that I’m an open book, so I had little to no problem asking my friends and family for recommendations, but I recognize how scary it can be for others to reach out to people you know. My advice would be to find a few people you really trust and let them know that you’re thinking about going to see a therapist. You’d actually be surprised how many people in your life have seen or are currently seeing a therapist! If you truly don’t feel comfortable reaching out to people you know personally, I would then recommend talking to a doctor that you feel comfortable with. For example, once when I went into my gynecologists office, we were talking about how my ED recovery was coming along and I mentioned that I was seeing a therapist that I absolutely loved and come to find out that my gynecologist knew my therapist because they were friends! Such a small world! Again, I know this can be one of the most nerve-wracking parts and you can totally skip it, but I really encourage you to reach out. Seeing a therapist is nothing to be ashamed about. Mental health is not something that should be stigmatized the way it is. I’ve found, personally, that the more I talk about it in my every day life the more comfortable people become with it.
4. Think about specializations
This is something that I didn’t realize I needed until I went to therapy for my ED. Before my ED, I’ve always gone to see someone who covered very general areas. When I was diagnosed with OCD at a young age I started seeing someone who covered “general anxiety disorders”. It wasn’t until recently, that I discovered how special a specialization can be. Story time- I had been seeing a therapist to help my ED recovery for about a year, but when I looked back, I realized that although we had tackled some serious deep rooted issues, we hadn’t tackled much of my ED. So although I absolutely loved my therapist, I had to look for a new therapist that specialized in ED’s and body image. Since I’ve switched to a therapist who specializes in ED recovery, I’ve been able to heal further and come to huge conclusions about my ED.
I encourage you to take some time to think about what specialty you may need- perhaps it’s childhood trauma, PTSD, family therapy, etc. You may not need a specialty at all and that’s ok! Don’t feel like you have to require a specialty in order to see someone, I just like to bring it up because it wasn’t until recently that I discovered how a specialty can completely change the game.
5. Consider location
I know this one is pretty straight forward, but it’s always good to think about the physical location of the office that you’ll be going to. Where is it in relation to your home or office? The location of your therapists office could determine if you’re able to fit in an appointment during your lunch break or swing by on your way home for work.
6. It’s ok to shop around
You should feel comfortable with your therapist, so if you ever get the feeling that you don’t connect with them that’s ok, you don’t have to stay with them! You won’t hurt their feelings, I promise. Before you even go to the office I suggest checking your therapist out online- read their bio (normally located on the office’s website) which may include their areas of interest, specializations, and some personal information. You don’t have to feel married to a therapist just because you saw them once– you want to make sure that you not only feel comfortable with them but that you also get a good vibe from them. Since they will be helping you and acting as a support system for you, you want to make sure that you feel at ease with them.
That’s all she wrote…
To end this post, I want to remind you that deciding you want to start talking to someone is the biggest step in this process. I’m always here to chat if you have questions about what going to therapy has done for me or what you should expect. Like I said earlier, I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve gone to therapy for the majority of my life and you shouldn’t either! 🙂
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