How to find a new therapist (in the overwhelming sea of therapists)

Especially just coming off a bad depression bout, it seems like bad timing to make a switch like this, but sometimes your therapist reveals to you how unhelpful they can be in your greatest time of need.

I don’t want to sit and talk shit about my now ex-therapist because she did help me in a lot of ways (probably including some I won’t realize for years), but I needed her to be emotionally present during my crisis modes and she couldn’t be for reasons I understand but cannot work around.

Whatever the case, I’ve had two or three very bad sessions in a row that made me realize it’s time for a change, no matter how inconvenient. I was describing to her how bad I’ve felt and she was trying to explain to me how she didn’t think I’d actually kill myself. She said the words “you didn’t even attempt.” And it was just so incredibly invalidating. I deserve a therapist who is there for me when I’m at my worst, for fuck’s sake. I’m pretty sad about it. I was laying in bed feeling like it was kind of a break up in the sense where I would think about it and my chest would feel like it’s caving in a little bit.

Nonetheless, it’s time to move on, and for the mentally ill, it’s probably not good to take some time to be “single” for a while if you truly do benefit from therapy in general (which I think almost everyone in the universe does, if they find the right person). There’s no tinder of which I’m aware for therapist-finding, but there are a few ways to do your search that are a little more useful than just sitting in your kitchen panicking (as I am apt to do).

I don’t really like list-articles normally (listicles rhymes with testicles for a reason) but here are a few tools to consider when doing a therapist search.

1. Determine what you want out of therapy.

Yikes, the first step is also the hardest for some. I guess start with your current diagnoses, if you have them, or start with symptoms, if you have them. Do you have a need for resilience and mindfulness coping skills? Try DBT therapy. Do you find you’re unable to break out of harmful, self-sabotaging cycles and you’re not sure where to start? Try EMDR. If you want a clinical experience, try a psychologist. If you want more of just someone to talk to, you might try a counselor instead. Maybe you already know you’d rather talk to a woman about your feelings than a man. Legit. You might decide that location of the therapist is super important because your transportation is limited, or maybe your insurance coverage is essential. Some therapists accept sliding scale rates, so if you don’t have insurance at all, maybe look into that?

I would make a list of everything you can think of. Then I’d pick the top ones of that list to determine what you CANNOT live without. Here’s a list of mine as an example.

  • Needs to be chill about transgender things. They don’t have to be queer but they do have to be informed at least so I don’t find myself in a teaching role during my therapy sessions.
  • Needs to take my insurance and be in-network.
  • Needs to understand the relationship between PTSD and depression.
  • Needs to be within 30-minute drive of my work, since I’ll be coming to therapy from work most of the time.
  • Has EMDR experience and practice.
  • Has mindfulness incorporated into their practice, but isn’t hokey in any way (sometimes that’s hard to find, and it shouldn’t be).
  • Probs identify as a woman, since I connect way better with women than men usually.
  • Maybe someone who will give me homework?

2. Use Psychology Today’s therapist-finder tool to take a look at area counseling resources.

What? There’s a catalog of therapists you can sort and filter by your needs? Yes. Here’s the ~Link~. It’s fun even to just browse. I should say that not every therapist ever is in this catalog, but there are many, and I think most if not all are VERIFIED in some way so you don’t end up with some creep from Craigslist.

Since I’m a writer, I’m very picky about people’s bios they write for themselves on their profile. I notice if they write in 1st or 3rd person and make judgments based on that (for example, someone who writes their bio using the “I” pronoun is perhaps more approachable and informal than someone who refers to themselves by their own name). If the bio is condescending in any way, that’s an immediate turn-off. But if a bio captures my attention and maybe reframes my problems before I even meet them, now THAT is impressive.

If you find one that really looks awesome, there are usually a couple contact methods available. Or else you can just make note of a few and return to them if you want to keep searching first.

3. Ask around for informal or formal referrals.

This is tricky but it also can be a godsend. The only good news about embarking on the journey of finding a new therapist is that millions of people have gone on the same journey before you. A lot of people have already done some ground work in figuring out who’s good in your town and who’s not.

This can be as micro as asking your friends for ideas or as formal as asking your family practice doc for official referrals. I’m part of a queer Facebook group which is pretty cool because there’s thousands  of people on it from my metro area, and members can ask for recommendations for these types of things, with the needs-to-be-queer-friendly lens. Are there any special interest or identity groups of which you’re part or could be part? Try those folks!

One thing to note is that just because a therapist is the best therapist for your college friend doesn’t mean that that therapist will be any good for you. And that doesn’t mean they suck. It’s just so personal and subjective. But please remain motivated! If you try a few and none of them work (I think a good rule is seeing a therapist 2 or 3 times before deciding, unless the first session is god-awful), keep going. It will be totally worth it in the end. There are so many therapists out there, which is overwhelming, but it’s also good because one of them will meet your standards. 🙂

I hope this will at least get you started if you’re about to embark on the journey to find a therapist. Finding a therapist can seem pretty insurmountable, especially if one of your reasons for going to therapy include anxiety! But at least knowing there are tools available can start to narrow these things down for you. Good luck. Feel free to share this post with someone if it made you think of anyone (respectfully).

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