5 Tips for Finding the Right Therapist
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Do The Opposite
I really hate being told what to do.
I mean, who does? Am I right? But believe me when I tell you, I really hate being told what to do. I’m talking like, if you told me not to touch a hot stove, I would probably touch it anyway and endure the burn simply because you just had to go and tell me not to. I have been this way my entire life and truthfully, my disdain for direction has come back to bite me in the ass at times, i.e., the hot stove situation. But when I look back at the last nearly three decades of my life, I have noticed that my hatred of being told what to do and how to act has ultimately done me much more good than harm. Doing the opposite of what I am told is what I’ve always been best at. It has gotten me through really difficult times in my life and it is one of the main reasons I am now married to the love of my life, have my own practice, my own blog, and a podcast about to launch. I have always gone after what I want with ferocity, letting the doubts and judgements of others serve as fuel to propel me further toward my dreams.
Recently though, I have found myself losing sight of this part of me. Times are so tough – not just for me, but for all of us. COVID-19 has flat-out devastated everyone in one way or another. Most of us went from hugging people on daily basis to fearing for our lives if we get too close to someone. I mean, six months ago – it was considered normal to eat birthday cake after someone else breathed all over it in an attempt to blow out candles. Can you even imagine doing that now? Will we ever be able to do anything like that again?
This quarantine feels unending. As much as I consider myself to be a homebody, I am so tired of being stuck in the house. In fact, I am so sick of all of it – the conspiracy theories, the death tolls, the unanswered questions about the long-term effects of this virus….just everything. These last few weeks in particular, I have found myself feeling powerless, overwhelmed, and exhausted. I am questioning every professional and personal move I make, on top of feeling nervous every time I cough. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for the monster that is COVID-19 to finally catch up with me. Sometimes it feels like it is just a matter of time before it finds me (Hello, anxiety). I feel distraught for those who have died. I feel sick with worry over the continued increase in rates of abuse and suicide among kids and adults. But what can I do about it?
The voices in my head have been so loud – “You can’t do this. You don’t have what it takes. You’re so dumb. Who are you to think you can change the world?” And then one day it hit me: I would never in a million years let someone else talk to me like that. I can guarantee that if someone told me I do not have what it takes to succeed, I’d simply use it as fuel!
Don’t tell me I can’t, because I can.
Don’t tell me I won’t, because I will.
Don’t tell me it’s impossible, because I’ll get it done.
This has been my mantra for as long as I can remember, so why on earth am I now giving into my own thoughts of criticism, hopelessness, and doubt? Why am I giving that voice in my head more credit than it deserves? I cannot let these terrible feelings shatter me now, and neither should you.
- When you feel powerless, do something that makes you feel empowered. Buy yourself some resistance bands and a pair of dumbbells and create your own workout. Go for a bike ride. Create a garden in your backyard. Do something that raises your heartrate and makes you feel strong and alive.
- When you feel devastated as you look at your summer wardrobe, realizing you barely got dressed up all summer because everything has been cancelled, make it a point to go out. Even if you think outdoor dining is terrible. Even if you feel annoyed at having to sit outside and sweat while you eat. Do it anyway. Pick out an outfit. Dress up. Go out to eat, sweat your ass off, sweat your makeup off. Who cares? Do it just to remind yourself that you can.
- When you feel isolated, surround yourself with people in the ways that you can. Don’t cut people off because we cannot see each other in person. Get creative! Plan virtual game nights with friends (via Tabletopia, the House Party app, etc.), plan FaceTime dates, Zoom dates, Zoom happy hours. If you enjoy going to wine/beer tastings with friends, plan a Zoom wine tasting. It’s not the same but it helps immensely with the isolation.
- When you feel like your whole life is out of control and the decisions you once used to make for yourself are no longer yours to make due to the pandemic, remind yourself of the things you do have control over. Remind yourself of the things you can still do. You can speak to people, you can still see people, you can get outside and catch some Vitamin D, you can hold your pets, your kids, and some of your loved ones tight, you can move your body, you can get in your car and go for a drive to the beach to 7pm to watch the sun set. Yes, so much has been taken away, but we have to remember that we still have so much power.
I know I am not the only one who has been feeling really upset and disoriented lately, especially in the wake of COVID. But instead of giving into those feelings, I am working hard to do the opposite. Don’t get me wrong, there are times that I still find myself needing to make space for the devastation that I feel, but these days I am making every effort to not stay stuck in those feelings. I’m channeling the part of me that uses the obstacles as fuel to create a brighter, and more hopeful future. I am doing a little more each and every day to bring back the part of me that has always done the opposite….
…and I invite you to do the same.