It’s happening – we are starting to deal with a mental health pandemic as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am seeing it in my own patients, I am talking about it with my colleagues, I am seeing it in my friends and family. This pandemic has been going on for half the year, with no ending or solutions in sight. This is causing extreme upticks in anxiety, depression, PTSD, and relationship issues, among many other problems. The more I talk to friends and colleagues in the field, the more often I hear them saying “I’m so booked up with new patients that I have to start turning people away who are looking for therapy.” 

On one hand, the thought of how badly people are struggling from this global pandemic makes my stomach turn. On the other hand, I am glad people are taking care of themselves by getting themselves in to see a therapist! If you are one of those people who are thinking that it might be a good idea to talk to someone, I thought I would share a few tips for finding the right therapist. I know it can be a daunting task – I did not see my very first therapist until around 21 years old and it took me about 4 years of switching from therapist to therapist just trying to find one that I felt like understood me. But don’t let that deter you – most people don’t spend years trying to find the right therapist, although it certainly can take some time. Below are a few tips to keep in mind when trying to find the right professional to help you:

  1. Know the difference between in-network therapists and out-of-network therapists. Out-of-network (OON) therapists do not accept your insurance directly, but that doesn’t mean your insurance will not pay for some or all of it. Know what your insurance will cover before starting the search – check with them about whether or not you have OON benefits and if you do, ask about any deductibles, percentage reimbursed, and out of pocket maximums. Many insurance companies will reimburse you between 70-80% of an OON therapist’s fee. Knowing this information will help you to better refine your search for a therapist who is a good financial fit for you. 
  2. Do not limit yourself to a quick search on Psychology Today or just the list that your insurance company provides you. Don’t get me wrong, Psychology Today is awesome, but especially now that most therapy is virtual, searching on Google will allow you to widen your search to therapists that are just about anywhere in the state. 
  3. Do your research if you think you have found a therapist who you might be interested in. Read their websites, send them an email, ask them a few questions, request a brief phone consultation. Try to get a feel for the therapist before deciding if you want to schedule an appointment. 
  4. Look for therapists who specialize in specific disorders, treatments, or life stressors/events. Be wary of those who say they specialize in just about everything – it’s very important to find someone who knows his/her limitations. Not all of us can be experts in everything. For example, if you are looking for a therapist to treat you for difficulty coping from a miscarriage, you would not want to see a therapist who has no experience or specialty in this area. This could ultimately do you more harm than good. 
  5. Most importantly, remember that this is about you. When you do meet a therapist for the first time, they will be asking you many questions, but it’s also important for you to ask questions of your own. You are the one who gets to decide if you want to establish a relationship with this person – and having a good relationship with your therapist is one of the most important predictors in treatment success. To put it plainly, if you’re not feeling the connection, it’s probably not going to work out. 

Hopefully these tips will help those of you who are thinking about searching for a therapist but have no clue where to begin. And if you’re still on the fence about whether or not you want to follow through – hop off that fence and give yourself the gift of therapy. It took me a while to find the right therapist (it probably would not have taken me nearly as long if I had known the information listed above), but even on my worst days, I can say that my therapist is the best gift I have ever given to myself.