How to Choose a Therapist

I often get asked how best to identify what therapist will be right for you. Therapists may list a series of acronyms referencing the types of therapy they do: CBT, AEDP, EFT, IFS etc. If you’re well versed in the different types of therapy, you can of course choose a therapist who practices the specific modality you prefer, but it’s not important to know the “types” of therapy out there to choose a good therapist.

I think the most common way most people narrow down the field of options is by choosing their favorite headshot. And, to be honest, that is a perfectly fine way to choose.

You can ask the therapists you’ve identified if they will do a free initial consultation in which you can hop on the phone with them for a few minutes to ask any questions you may have. Some things to consider asking:

  1. What is your cancellation policy?
  2. How much do you charge and can I use credit card or FSA/HSA cards?
  3. What is your approach?
  4. Do you consult with other clinicians about cases ever?

Research suggests that the most significant way to predict client satisfaction or growth with a therapist is the degree to which the client trusts that therapist. So the most important part of your phone call will be deciding if you like their vibe. Ideally, if you are financially able, I would suggest doing a couple initial sessions with therapists once you’ve narrowed down your selection. Trust yourself. That doesn’t mean you should always end your relationship with a therapist if you’re finding therapy tough occasionally (therapy can be tough sometimes!) but if you’re consistently feeling misunderstood, ignored or judged, it may be time to consider a different clinician. It also might be beneficial to address these concerns with your therapist first. More on why to do that in my next post…

Starting Your Search for a Therapist

Finding a therapist that works for you can be so difficult, so I’ve compiled some options here to help you in your search.

Many people find their therapists by asking friends if they know of anybody in the area they’d recommend. That certainly helps narrow down who you might want to see. There are also online options, if word of mouth isn’t your preference. The two most commonly used platforms to search for a therapist are:

  • Psychology Today
  • Therapy Den

Psychology Today features the most therapists, while Therapy Den has a specific social justice orientation and provides more in-depth information about the therapists on their site. Each allow you to search by metrics like location, orientation, gender etc.

You can also call your insurance company to find out what therapists in your area accept your plan. People often report significant difficulty with finding a therapist through their insurance plan.  Many therapists do not take insurance because insurance companies often reimburse at incredibly low rates and require a significant amount of paperwork and time outside of sessions to do billing. This leaves many people unable to get a therapist near them at a timeslot they need.

If you have a limited income and can’t afford to pay the full fee a therapist charges, you can look for “sliding scale” therapists in your Google search. You can find local therapy centers that may have therapists that are willing to accept a lower fee for clients that can’t afford it. For example, in the Bay Area you would find the center I work at – Grateful Heart Holistic Therapy Center. Many of my colleagues there are willing to accept clients at a lower fee.  There is also a program that exists across the country called OpenPath that lists therapists who can sometimes accept a fee as low as $30 a session. I don’t suggest you use these programs unless you truly can’t afford to pay a therapist their full fee, not just because this is their livelihood, but because most therapists only have a few timeslots they are willing to charge a sliding scale for and if you claim one of those spots, others who may have serious need won’t be able to use them.

Hope this info is helpful! In my next post  I’ll discuss how to choose between therapists once you identify a few options.

As always, you can contact me via email at spolanskytherapy@gmail.com if you think I’d be a good fit for you.