How to Find a Therapist Part I: The Search + Initial Contact

So you’ve made the decision to give therapy a try – great!

The next step is finding the right person to work with you on your journey to healing.

Finding a therapist can be an overwhelming and sometimes scary process. There may be a million questions running through your mind: Where do I look for a therapist? Can I find someone that takes my insurance? How expensive is it going to be? Will I even like working with this person?

If this is you – if you’re feeling ready to take that step and begin therapy but are feeling overwhelmed with how to start that process - I’m here to break down some simple tips for finding a therapist that works for you.

The first step to finding a therapist is actually finding a therapist, and here are the easiest resources to use:

Psychology Today: This is a great website that lets you search for therapists in your zip code. One of the features I like best about this website is that after entering your zip code, you can customize your search by selecting options from the menu on the left side of the page. For example, you can filter your search by the gender of the therapist, religious orientation, type of insurance that is accepted, and what key issues you are seeking help with, among other options. Once you’ve narrowed the search you’ll be able to browse through the different profiles of therapists that meet your desired specifications, which takes a lot of the guesswork out of the process!

Counseling California: This website also allows you to search for therapists near your zip code, and to customize your search according to gender, insurance taken, ethnicity, language spoken, and therapist specialty. The difference is that Counseling California only contains profiles for marriage and family therapists, making it a great option if you’re looking specifically for a couple’s therapist.

Google: You can always use Google to search for therapists in your area. It’s best to include a few keywords of what you’re looking for in a therapist. For example, you could search for “Christian trauma therapist in Burbank, Ca” and then browse through the highest search results.

Ask a friend: If you have friends or family members that have seen a therapist in the past, ask them for referrals of people that they would recommend. You might save yourself the trouble of an internet search if you can get a direct referral from someone that you already trust.

After checking these resources, hopefully you found someone that seems interesting – hooray!

Now what?

Once you’ve found a therapist (or two) that look interesting to you, the next step is to reach out to them via their listed email or phone number and ask to set up a consultation.

Most therapists will offer a free phone consultation, and some even offer a free face-to-face consultation. During this initial phone call you will be able to do two main things:

1.     Ask the therapist questions you have about how they practice

2.     Get a better sense of whether or not you would feel comfortable working with them

I also recommend you write down some questions before the consultation to help you keep track of what questions you want answered during the conversation.

Here are some key questions that you may want to ask during the first consultation:

1.     What is your availability to take on new clients? 

It’s important to know early on if your schedules are compatible. For example, if you are only able to attend therapy in the evenings, then you want to make sure whoever you are talking to has evening spots available. Otherwise, you may end up disappointed and feeling like you’ve wasted your time during that conversation.

2.     How do you practice therapy?

You can ask the therapist to describe how they typically practice, or even ask them to describe what the first session of therapy might look like. Another way of asking this is, “What is your therapeutic orientation?” There are many different types of therapy being practiced, and not all of them are going to feel right for you. Pay attention to your gut reaction as the therapist describes their approach to therapy – Does it make you feel excited? Do you feel hesitant? Does it seem like it would fit well with your personality? Use that gut reaction to help you figure out whether you would want to engage in therapy with that person.

3.     What is your fee, and do you offer a sliding scale?

Legally and ethically, therapists have to tell you what their fee is before you schedule the first session together. You should never be blindsided by the bill in a first session! When discussing the fee, you can also ask if the therapist offers any “sliding scale” sessions. Therapists often keep a few time slots open at a lower fee for patients that may not be able to afford their full fee, so it’s always worth it to ask.

4.     Do you take insurance?

If you are hoping to use your insurance to help pay for therapy, you’ll want to make sure that particular therapist can accept your insurance plan. Asking this in the initial conversation is another way you can avoid feeling like you’ve wasted your time later on.

During that initial consultation, the therapist might also ask questions of you, such as “Why are you seeking therapy at this time?” It can be helpful to prepare an answer before hand that you are comfortable sharing over the phone with the therapist. Remember, you only have to share what you’re comfortable with, and it’s ok to keep it brief or say “I’d prefer to talk about that more in person and not over the phone.”

Once you’ve gotten your questions answered and had a chance to speak with the therapist, it’s time to decide if you want like to schedule an initial session with them

Yay!

If you feel comfortable with the therapist and want to proceed, you can let them know that you would like to schedule an initial session. On the other hand, if you’re feeling hesitant or want to speak to more therapists before making a decision, you can simply thank the therapist for answering your questions and explain that you will contact them in the future if you would like to schedule a session.

Once you’ve scheduled that first appointment, check out Part II of this blog series on how to tell if you’ve found the right therapist for you.

Happy hunting!