It’s easy to find a therapist, right? Take out your smartphone, open up your google app and type in therapist in my area and voila- a list of therapists. But as many individuals have found its not that easy.
Hurdle number one- getting in contact with a therapist. First of all, no one answers the phone. Slight exaggeration, but the majority of the time you will have to leave a message for a mental provider. Which is perfectly understandable. Problem is many providers do not call back if they are not accepting new clients. I have had many clients and potential clients be surprised when I return their call do to their previous experiences.
Once a prospective client is able to get a therapist on the phone they are eager to make an appointment and get started. But there are a few things one may want to consider before scheduling the first appointment. Does this provider take my insurance, if so what is my copay. If not what is the cost of each session? Is there a sliding scale or payment plan? Cost is important to take into consideration. I have had clients or the parents of clients say cost doesn’t matter as long as help for the issue is being obtained. But cost does matter. It’s important to consider the ability to keep up with the cost on an ongoing basis. Therapy takes time and consistency. It is much more productive to plan for the cost of ongoing treatment at the beginning of treatment; rather than having to stop treatment in the middle of the process do to lack of funds.
Another consideration when looking for a therapist is their availability and hours of operation. Is the therapist’s practice so busy that they will not be able to meet regularly with yourself or your child? For example, if you’re looking for weekly sessions but the therapist’s schedule is so impacted that they are only able to schedule you every three weeks or so, that may not be the best fit. Additionally, a therapist may only have hours of operation during the evenings and weekends. These times may work well for individuals who work during the day or for older children, as to not interrupt school. However it may not be ideal for someone with an alternative work schedule or a very young child who is better served during the day. It can be very helpful to ensure your schedule and the therapist’s schedules are compatible.
Once the logistics have been worked out it’s time to explore the most important aspect of finding a therapist; the therapist themselves. Does the therapist specialize or have experience working with a situation similar to yours? If you are seeking treatment for complex trauma but the therapist has little to no experience working with survivors of trauma this may not be the best fit for you. If you’re looking for a therapist for a three year old child but the therapist’s practice mainly caters to couples, a different provider may prove to be more suited for your needs. It’s important to remember that it’s not only the therapist’s qualifications and specialties, but also the personality of the therapist. Therapist are just like everyone else; their personalities vary. Tone of voice, sense of humor, level of interaction, and energy level of the therapist all affect a client’s comfort level. Ultimately you want yourself or your child to be comfortable with the therapist. This allows for the most effective working environment. Many people overlook the importance of finding the right fit between a therapist and client; however there are many people who have “quit” therapy do so because of an ill fit. Often a client who quits therapy never returns to treatment because they generalize their one experience to all therapists. Therefore assessing for compatibility between therapist and client can be very helpful.
Finding a therapist may not be as easy as typing in a search into your smartphone; but it is an important process that can deeply impact the person seeking treatment.