Self-Care Guide: How to Find a Therapist
Are you feeling anxious? Overwhelmed? Are you feeling nothing at all? Or are you not sure what it is that you’re feeling? Any of these thoughts and emotions could be a good indication that your body’s “check engine” light may be on– and that is okay, it happens every once in a while. Even if you aren’t feeling any of these things, are you looking to grow personally? Gain self-awareness? Are you going through a big life adjustment? Your first step on this great journey will be learning how to find a therapist.
Call Her Daddy podcast host Alex Cooper says it best: “We’ve all got our sh*t. It’s fine to admit that.” And she’s right: no matter what phase of life you’re in, or what sh*t you’re going through, therapy can be useful for everyone. It isn’t just for those world-shattering tragedies; therapy is a stepping stone to better understanding, communicating, and appreciating your feelings. Take this as your *sign* to try it out, even if your “check engine” light may not be on right now. Your future self may thank you!
- The reasons for starting therapy are limitless; keep in mind that any reason for starting counseling is a good enough reason.
- Although it can be daunting to figure out how to afford therapy, there are a plethora of resources and options for those with and without insurance.
- It's important to go into therapy with an open mind; your first therapist likely won’t be your last (and that is okay.)
How to find a therapist: Getting started
To start, let me just reiterate that, despite the normalization, you do not have to be in a mental calamity to see a therapist. The reasons for beginning therapy are boundless, and no one reason is better than the other, despite what some may think. The problem is that it’s easy to compare your feelings to those around you, and if the way you’re feeling doesn’t seem “good” or “bad” enough, it’s easy to push those emotions down and away for another time.
On top of all of that, trying to figure out how to find a therapist that works with your insurance, won’t break the bank if you don’t have health insurance, and will be best for your wants and needs can be headache and anxiety-inducing in itself. It’s too easy to keep pushing it off. Fortunately, we’ve gone through some of the trouble for you to (hopefully) streamline that process and be the encouragement you need to finally just do it.
First things first: if you’ve been delaying scheduling that first appointment, or if you’re just starting to consider the idea of going, reflect on what may be holding you back from seeking help. Is it the stigma surrounding therapy? Is the hesitation coming from those around you? Are you stubborn and think you could do it on your own? All of these thoughts are normal, and it’s important to acknowledge how you’re feeling. It’s also critical to understand that the way you prioritize and take care of yourself reflects outward; it can project onto your relationships with others. So as you’re getting started, just remember: not only are you doing this for yourself, but you’re doing this for those that are closest to you.
Next, decide what you want to get out of it. Take some time to reflect on some of your hopes and goals. It can help to start broadly and identify some of your larger motives and dreams. You can also pick a theme for yourself, and narrow that theme down into more specific goals. Having an idea of what you really want for yourself can be beneficial for attending your first session when the therapist may ask, “what brings you to therapy?” If you aren’t sure what your goals may be, start a list of what prompted you to begin therapy, and bring this with you on your first session to talk out your goals with your therapist.
Now that you’ve got a good baseline, take to the internet to formulate a list of all the potential therapists in your area. Psychology Today has an extensive database that allows you to discover a plethora of diverse therapists near you – all with a wide range of specialties that cater to individual needs. When doing your research, it is important to ensure they have the proper tools to help you. Most of them also have bios that include their education, specialties, and a little blip about what they have to say about their area of expertise to get a feel for their personality.
Things to Consider
At this point, we’ve covered the fact that therapy and counseling can be extremely beneficial for everyone. However, trying to find a therapist that you adore and can afford? Not necessarily the fun part! The question of howdo I find a therapist that takes my insurance can be a doozy and often leaves some of us feeling overwhelmed or discouraged.
Fortunately, this part doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, all insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act are required to cover mental health services. Even more, all Medicaid plans– and a majority of major employers– cover at least some mental health care. And even if you don’t have any insurance available to you, there are still a multitude of options!
The first step is to contact your insurance provider. Simply ask them what mental health benefits they offer. Here are some questions to ask:
- Is there a copay for therapy with my plan?
- Are teletherapy appointments covered by my plan?
- Are out-of-network therapists covered?
- Do I need to get referred by my primary care provider?
Once you have more of a grasp on what type of coverage you have, it’ll be easier to find a therapist that takes your insurance. (Staying in-network is the more affordable way to go!)
If you don’t have health insurance, you still have many options. Typically, out-of-pocket therapy sessions range from $100 to $200 per session, depending on the provider and where you live. Fortunately, some providers offer a “sliding scale” pricing system. Basically, this means that the price per session will vary based on a few key factors, including the patient’s income. It is completely fine to ask a therapist their rate and whether or not they work on a sliding scale: do not be ashamed! Just make sure you are prepared to let them know your reasoning.
Lastly, if you live near a college campus, students who are studying to become mental health practitioners often offer services at lower rates. They work closely with licensed professionals that supervise sessions. Additionally, there are community or government-funded health centers out there that offer options for mental health services. To find out more about these services, you can contact the department of behavioral health in your area.
Another option to consider is online therapy: a great option for convenience and gaining access to a wider variety of therapists. Despite being less traditional, online therapy is just as effective and (bonus!) generally less expensive. Numerous studies have concluded that online counseling and in-person counseling have seemingly the same effectiveness.
This “adulting” part is often the most daunting of it all. Thankfully, there are so many resources and options that alleviate some of the financial burdens that therapy can cause.
Dating your therapist?
No, I don’t mean literally. Honestly, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to therapy, and just like going on dates, you have to really feel out what you’re looking for. It is critical to learn what you like, what you don’t like, your metaphorical “icks,” and what it takes to ultimately find the one. The reality is, you won’t really know if your therapist is “the one” until you’re talking with them, and this might take a few sessions. The conclusion: go into it with an open mind and remember that your first therapist will likely not be your last – and that is okay.
We must not forget that therapists are licensed medical professionals; regardless of whether or not it is under their care, they want the best for you. It is more than okay to let them know, “Hey, I think I am looking for someone (or something) else that may be a better fit for me.” At this point, it’s like breaking up with someone and starting over, which can be another intimidating task. But I am here to let you know that it doesn’t have to be. It’s all a normal (and necessary) part of life!
Finally, remember that self-care is never selfish. Taking time to invest in a better you is never a bad idea or one that should be put on the back-burner. Therapy is a phenomenal investment for anyone who wants to reap the benefits, so whether you’re looking to create healthy, intentional relationships, set life goals, or you’re looking for support through whatever you may be going through, this is your sign to get started. Being proactive about your mental health can help you keep control of your life. We’re all going through some sh*t. No one needs to go through it alone.
Written by Morgan Taylor