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Searching for a therapist

So you’ve made the decision to go to therapy.  Now you just need to find the right therapist.

This can be one of he biggest obstacles to someone following through.  Who do I choose?  What do I look for?  What do all those letters mean after her name?  It really can be quite confusing and overwhelming.  Don’t give up.

In the old days (like 10 years ago ;-)), you would either get a referral from your doctor or a friend who wasn’t too embarrassed to admit they had been to therapy.  Times have changed.  Being the technology savvy person you obviously are, you will probably start your search online.

There are a couple of great websites, Goodtherapy.org and Psychology Today that can help you narrow your search.  Whether you’re looking for someone with particular expertise, who takes your insurance, or any other criteria, they can provide a list of people in your area.  The majority of clients I see find me through an online directory.

You’ve found the list of potential therapists, now what?  Your reason for choosing whomever you choose might be very different than how someone else might decide.  What is most important is that you choose someone you feel comfortable with and feel you can connect to.  Their picture, credentials, and even experience are not the best indicators of whether someone will be a great fit for you.

However, of course, you do want someone with experience.  I know I will make a lot of people unhappy with me for saying this….but, I would typically not recommend seeing someone who is an intern and/or not fully credentialed to practice completely independently.  Unless that person is working within an agency (not group practice) setting.  It’s not that these people won’t be great therapists someday, but the experience they lack could put your treatment at a disadvantage.  Especially if you have a history of child abuse. And you deserve better.  There is often one advantage to seeing an intern.  Their fees are typically less than a fully credentialed therapist.

Okay, back to choosing someone.  Most therapists give at least a brief phone consultation at no charge.  Some will even offer a free in person consultation.  I would encourage you to take advantage of this.  The reality is, you won’t know if someone is right for you until you’ve had an opportunity to speak with her/him.

All the letters you see after someone’s name are related to their degree and/or license.  For example…after my name you will find MSW, LCSW.  Which stands for Master in Social Work and Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

Depending on your state, you may find LPC or LCPC, which stands for Licensed (Clinical) Professional Counselor; LMFT for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.  The license you get is dependent on your education and the degree you obtain.  Again, the degree and license are little indication that someone would be the right person for you.  Though there are some differences in the philosophy of how to approach the work we do.

I know it is all pretty confusing.  I was mid way through my Masters program before I fully understood what it all meant.

Here is an article from goodtherapy.org that talks, in depth about elements of good therapy.  It is quite lengthy and detailed, but it does have some great information.

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2 comments on “Searching for a therapist”

  1. It is sooo hard to find a therapist! It really can be too expensive. I am unemployed and struggling to find someone I "click" with and can afford. I KNOW I need help but how does someone get the help they need when it is unaffordable? So frustrating.

    1. Hi Sara!

      Thanks so much for your question. I actually struggled with this issue quite a bit when I left Arizona a couple of months ago. I needed to find referrals who not only really understood CSA, but were also affordable for many of my clients. I ended up being pretty disappointed with the options available.

      You haven't said what you need therapy for, but there are rape crisis centers in many communities that offer free or low cost counseling. They are often aware of other resources in the community as well. Generally I prefer a rape crisis center over a "community counseling" center because the training and experience tends to be much more focused and victim centered.

      Additionally, it's worth asking therapists in private practice if they offer any sliding scale or reduced fee fees. It's not always advertised.

      If you live in the U.S. and would like to let me know what community you live in (you can do it privately), I'd be happy to try to find some resources for you.

      Don't give up!

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All the information I share on this site is for informational and educational purposes only. Your participation on the site does not constitute a therapeutic relationship. If you are struggling and need immediate support, please contact RAINN @ https://rainn.org/ or call your local emergency services.
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