Starting the process of therapy can be super overwhelming - you probably type in "therapy" or something like it into google and you get ads and websites and agencies galore, yet usually none of those resources explain how to choose a therapist. Research shows that the relationship between the client and the therapist is essential and foundational to the healing process, so choosing one that you can truly connect with is, too! Here is a step-by-step process to finding the right fit for you!
Before we dive into the specifics, let's first identify that there are several different types of therapists. You will probably see a bunch of initials after people's names and have no idea what they mean. There are lots of variations depending on the state, but for Minnesota, here are the standard ones: LICSW (Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker), LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor), LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist) and LP (Licensed Psychologist). All of these individuals have at least a master's degree in counseling and are independently licensed (meaning they completed all their provisional license hours and passed an exam proving their competency). Each type of therapist will bring something unique to the table based on their counseling orientation, but all are qualified as therapists.
There are different ways that people can be seen for therapy. They include:
Agencies (think bigger names like Nystrom, Associated Clinic of Psychology, etc)
Online Platforms (BetterHelp, TalkSpace, etc)
Private/Group Therapy Practices
There are pros and cons to all of them - generally you will get the most bang for your buck going with a private or group therapy practice due to more flexibility on the therapists' end.
So, what is the actual process for finding the right therapist for you?
First, how will you pay for it?
Are you using insurance? Call your insurance company and ask them to send you a list of therapists they are contracted with. Make sure you know if you have a copay and how much it is.
Are you paying out of pocket? What is your price range? Therapy is an investment in yourself so you should expect to invest monetarily as well. That being said, many therapists do sliding scale or reduced fees based on income or need.
Are you using a benefits card (HSA/FSA)? What limits do you have on it and what time frame and price point would you need to make it workable?
Do you have out of network benefits? If so, you may be able to work with more therapists if they provide a superbill (a fancy insurance company receipt) so that you get reimbursed for sessions.
Next, get specific about what you want help with and how you want to be helped
Identify your main concern with your mental health (i.e. anxiety, depression, trauma, grief, etc)
Do you want to do talk therapy? Do you want to create behavior changes? Do you want to change your thinking? Do you want to learn new skills? Do you want to process something?
How long do you see yourself committing to the process? (Hint: you should give yourself at least 3-6 months, as you are creating a relationship with another human and learning new things and that takes time)
What characteristics are you looking for in a therapist? Do you want someone who just listens/validates? Challenges you? Has certain availability? Has specialized knowledge in a specific topic? Is part of a specific group/identity? Etc.
Do you want to be seen online or in-person?
Once you have an idea of what you might want, use google. Optimize your search by including some specific information such as:
"LGBTQ+ counselor near 55455"
"Trauma therapy + Minneapolis"
You will likely see therapist directories such as PsychologyToday, Mental Health Match, Therapy Den, Open Path Collective, and more when you search. These tools are a great way to see snippets of different therapists all put together in one area.
If you are using insurance, you can skip right to the directory of therapists that your company provides to you.
Once you narrow down a few therapists that you are interested in, check out their websites and book a consultation. Many therapists will do free consultations to see if you are a good fit for them, too. When you are looking at their content, do you feel like they already understand you? If so, that's a good sign that you are an ideal client for them. Their marketing messages are speaking directly to you because you are who they are great at working with. If you are not feeling that spark, it may not hurt to still do a consultation with them to see if there is something with their personality or approach that pulls you in!
Once you have the consultation booked, it's a good idea to have some questions ready for your therapist so you can get a feel for them. Some ideas for questions include:
How much do you charge per session? What is your cancellation policy?
How often do we meet? How does scheduling happen?
What types of therapy do you do
Once you have your therapist all picked out, the rest is up to you! Each therapist has their own style and they will guide you on the next steps.