Choosing the right therapist can be a challenging process. The good news is that many resources are available to help you make the best decision.
One resource is to seek recommendations from trusted sources. Another is to consult your health insurance provider, which may have a directory of providers covered by your plan.
Ask for Recommendations
Whether you find a therapist in San Francisco to treat a specific issue or improve the overall quality of your life, asking for recommendations can help you find the right person. Your primary care doctor or another trusted physician can provide names of therapists they recommend, and you can also ask people in your social network for ideas. However, remember that everyone’s experience with a therapist is unique. For example, a friend may have had an excellent connection with one therapist but could have connected better with another.
Therapists often have websites or online profiles where they share resources, blog posts, testimonials, and other information about their practice. It is also worth searching for the therapist’s name on Google and reading online reviews, as these can give you an idea of what to expect from therapy.
Depending on your situation, consider finding a therapist who has worked with other clients from a similar background. This could include race, culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, or mental health condition. Some therapists have developed culturally responsive therapeutic models and formed organizations that support them, while others prioritize matching goals over race/ethnicity in their search for new clients.
Look for Experience
Finding the right therapist for you can take time. You may even encounter a few who don’t work out, but it’s important to keep looking. A good therapist will be respectful, empathetic, and skilled at listening to you talk about difficult things. They should never judge you or bring their own opinions into the conversation and should make you feel safe.
Depending on your situation, it can also help to find a therapist who is familiar with the issues you’re facing and uses evidence-based treatment methods. Some examples of this would be art therapy or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, which are both used to treat trauma and anxiety.
You can also look for a therapist who has experience with your specific concerns or is part of your community. For example, people in the LGBTQIA+ community often report that they find it easier to open up with therapists who are part of that same community.
Lastly, searching for a therapist through a group practice can be helpful, allowing you to screen many providers at once. These groups have a pool of experienced therapists who each have their specialities and approaches. This can save you time and money compared to searching for a single individual who meets your criteria.
Ask for a Trial Session
Just like teachers have students who connect with them, therapists can have clients who do well in their sessions and others who don’t. You can determine whether a potential therapist is a good fit for you by asking about their approach, how they work with clients with similar concerns, and how often they typically see patients.
You can also ask a therapist about their professional qualifications. Some therapists have a Ph.D in psychology or a Psy.D degree, while licensed clinical social workers and mental health counselors have a master’s degree. Some therapists specialize in certain types of disorders, including anxiety and depression. Some have additional training in specific populations, such as children or teen parents.
Finally, you can check online for a list of licensed therapists in your area. Some therapists also provide virtual counselling, where you communicate with them through video chat (like the service offered by Thriveworks). If you’re curious about availing medical services online, you should learn more about telemedicine in primary care.
Some community centres, clinics, and hospitals have displays or bulletin boards of names and contact information for local therapists. These resources are great if you cannot still look for referrals from other sources. However, they may be limited to therapists who share your religious affiliation or other demographic characteristics. You can also look at lists of therapists compiled by professional associations or consumer organizations.
Make a Plan
Finding a therapist who can help you thrive requires dedicated work. Some therapists may have waitlists or full schedules even if you get referrals. If you’re struggling with finances, it’s worth looking for low-cost or free options — such as federally funded health centers – in your area.
Schedule initial consultation sessions once you’ve compiled a list of potential therapists. These are often short (or even free), allowing you to ask questions, see how comfortable you feel with them, and determine if they fit your needs.
Whether you’re seeking treatment for anxiety, depression, or another mental illness, it’s important to find someone who understands your unique experiences and concerns. Many therapists specialize in specific disorders, but many theories and techniques exist. If you’re concerned about medication side effects, for example, consider looking for a therapist who can prescribe them or has experience working with other practitioners.
It’s exciting to live in a time when mental health is becoming destigmatized and more mainstream, but it can also be challenging to find a therapist who is available to meet your needs. If you use the tips above to find a therapist to help you thrive, your search will be well worth it!