Episode 88: Finding the Right Therapist for You
Episode 88: Finding the Right Therapist for You
Where do I even begin to look for a therapist? How do I know what I can afford? How can I know if I’ve found the right therapist for me? If you’re thinking about getting a therapist but are feeling overwhelmed by all of it, this is the episode for you! Alyssa discusses some simple ways to begin looking for a therapist as well as how you can feel empowered in choosing the right person to help you on your healing journey.
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Alyssa Scolari [00:23]:
Hello. Welcome back to another episode of the Light After Trauma podcast. I am your host, Alyssa Scolari, and we are back with another solo episode, took a little bit of a break last week and recycled an older episode about EMDR. And I hope that you all liked it because I know so many of you are new to this podcast. And we did that EMDR episode over a year ago at this point. And I think that it’s a really good episode. It’s one of my favorites that we’ve ever done on the show. Melissa Parks is amazing. So if you have not listened to it, I strongly encourage you to go check it out, because I think it’s awesome. And part of the reason why I recycled that episode last week is because I’ve had quite a busy week this week and I really needed some time for just relaxation and recuperation.
Alyssa Scolari [01:19]:
I know I was mentioning in the last episode that things with my private practice have been a little bit just very hectic good, but, well, good and stressful, but hectic, nonetheless. And I also started EMDR myself. So at the time that I’m recording this, I had my first session this morning and I was so nervous. I really did not think I would be that nervous, but I have to say I loved it. It’s really funny because I am so stubborn that it is infuriating, even to me sometimes. I have heard through and through from so many people that EMDR is exhausting, it’s so tiring. It’s really difficult for folks. It’s very intensive. And so I walked into this guy’s office, the therapist’s office and he said exactly that he was like, I just want you to know this is, it’s a really exhausting process. So make sure that your schedule is as clear as it can be for the rest of the day after your sessions. And I was like, eh, I’ll be fine. It’s fine. I’ll power through, how exhausting can it be?
Alyssa Scolari [02:40]:
Oh my God, I was so wrong. I was so wrong. By six o’clock this evening, I could barely keep my eyes open. I had to just go take a shower and get ready for bed. And I had some dinner and I feel like I have a little bit more energy and I really wanted to record, because I wanted to talk about the stuff while it’s fresh on my mind. So I have some energy, so I’m here recording, but honestly the first session was really good. We didn’t get too deep into anything, but I was really proud of myself for going. And this therapist that I have is a male. And that was a really, really big challenge for me to have a male therapist. And I chose a male therapist almost intentionally. It’s really hard to find a therapist right now.
Alyssa Scolari [03:33]:
Therapists, the demand is so high and there are few and far between. So it’s really hard to find one. And I had reached out to a few women who specialized in EMDR and they did not have any openings. And then I found this place, this trauma center and the only people who had availability were male. And I was thinking to myself and I was like, do I want to do this? And I, even the thought of working with a male was really starting to make me upset. Just the thought was causing me a distress. And honestly, I took that as a sign that it’s like, okay, I need to work on this. If just thinking about interacting with a male, aside from my husband, of course, is causing me that much stress, then maybe that’s a sign that I actually should do this and should try to face my fear and process this and work through it. And I have to say, I’m really glad I did.
Alyssa Scolari [04:41]:
And now listen, that’s not going to be the case for everybody. Please honor your fear response, honor your anxiety, honor where you’re at in the moment, because trust me, there were times in my life where I was absolutely not. I never saw myself working with a male, but I just feel like it’s time. I feel like it’s time. And it went really well. It was really interesting. And I will be very curious to see where this goes and I’m looking forward to sharing it all with you. I have been exhausted, as I said, and I think that it’s going to be a really intensive process, but I am really looking forward to feeling better. I couldn’t be more excited about this.
Alyssa Scolari [05:31]:
So I feel like I made the right move. And when I was sitting with him today in his office, I realized, you know what? It’s actually very, very hard to find the right therapist. And I’m not necessarily going to say a good therapist, because I don’t really want to play so much judgment. I feel like most therapists, most, not all, are really doing the best they can. So I don’t want to say good versus bad. I want to say the right therapist. It is way harder than I think people really even talk about. And I got very lucky and I don’t know, I’ve only had one session. So who knows, I might go back next week and maybe something will happen and I’ll be like, oh my goodness, I don’t think this is going to work out. Building that relationship is going to take more than one session.
Alyssa Scolari [06:30]:
But I really liked him in that session. And it’s actually rare to meet somebody the first time for therapy and feel like, okay, I got this. This is great. Maybe I shouldn’t say rare. But what I should say is, it’s not uncommon for people to go through a few different therapists before they find the right one. And I don’t know if people even realize that there is a such thing as finding the right therapist. I think that so many folks go to therapy thinking that all therapists are generally the same and they don’t realize that they have the power to say, I don’t really think this is working for me. I think I might need to look for somebody else. And this just got me thinking about how so many folks don’t really even know where to begin with looking for a therapist, because it is such an overwhelming and daunting task. And it’s this fear of having to disclose all of your secrets or your trauma or your problems with somebody who is a complete stranger to you. People really don’t know what to expect.
Alyssa Scolari [07:50]:
And it just hit me today while I was sitting in there as a first time client with this man, I was just sitting there and I was like, oh, I need to talk about this on the podcast, because people don’t know, people don’t realize that they have power and choices and options and they don’t know what they should be looking for, where they should be looking. So I want to talk about that today, because even as somebody who’s very aware of what it’s like to navigate the finding a therapist world, this is what I do for a living. So I know what it’s like. But even as somebody who is well aware of the process, it was still hard for me, not so much with this new therapist that I have, but it has still been hard for me in the past to find a therapist.
Alyssa Scolari [08:45]:
And I think that if I knew then what I know now, I wish that I could go back in time and equip my younger self with the tools that I have now to be able to be more selective about the therapists that I work with, because I have had some doozies. I have had some doozies for therapists, for sure. Again, I’ve had some bad therapists. I am going to play some judgment here. I’ve had some really shitty therapists, and I’ve had a very harmful therapists, therapists who have done things that honestly, one day I will tell you all about, but today is not that day. So I am here to talk about this today, to equip you with the tools, if you are somebody who is like, I want to start talking to somebody, but I’m afraid. I don’t even know where to begin. It’s very overwhelming. Can I afford it? We are going to talk about all of those things today.
Alyssa Scolari [09:40]:
So I want to start off first by talking about finances and touching on it briefly, because it, well, and I should say this. What I’m about to say is not necessarily going to be a universal. So I’m only aware as far as it concerns the United States, but I know we have listeners from all over the world. So I do not know if this is going to still hold true for you if you are in another country. So I’m just going to touch on this briefly. So in the United States, it basically comes down to therapists who accept insurance, and therapists who don’t. If you’re looking at certain websites for therapists, you might see a very common phrase called out-of-network. An out-of-network therapist means that they do not accept any insurance upfront, meaning that you would have to pay the full fee out-of-pocket.
Alyssa Scolari [10:37]:
Now, it can be very, very expensive to do that, especially if you’re in therapy once a week, let’s say your session is a hundred dollars an hour. And I don’t know, that could be high in some places, that could be lower in some places. But let’s say that the therapists fee is a hundred dollars an hour. Well, now you’re looking at $400 a month. So these fees can add up. So out-of-network therapists can be expensive. But with that being said, there’s something that you should know, which is that your insurance company, depending on what plan you have, may reimburse you a percentage of your therapist’s fee. So if you are thinking that you might want to work with an out-of-network therapist, then you would call your insurance company and ask what are my out-of-network benefits for mental and be behavioral health.
Alyssa Scolari [11:40]:
And at that point, your insurance company is going to say, well, you don’t have any on your plan, or, well, we will reimburse you 70% of every session. And if the therapist fee is a hundred dollars and your insurance is going to reimburse you 70%, what they’re going to do is every 30 days, they’re going to mail you a check. Well, I shouldn’t say every 30 days, I think that it depends on the insurance company, but they’re going to mail you a check for 70%, meaning you’re now only paying $30 a session. Now, of course, that’s assuming that you have that money to be able to put up front, that can also be a problem for folks. So these are just things for you to think about, but don’t automatically shy away from out-of-network therapists because you never know, your insurance company might actually pay for a part of it. Of course, your insurance company doesn’t like to tell you that, because they would rather have you see somebody in-network, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Alyssa Scolari [12:45]:
And then, of course, you have your in-network therapists, and these are therapists who accept your insurance and you would pay, I think probably a smaller copay or really depends on your insurance plan, $30, $5, $10. And your therapist would be in charge for billing your insurance. And then the insurance company would pay your therapist. As opposed to you paying your therapist with an out-of-network person and your insurance then reimbursing you, it would be you just pay the copay and then your insurance company will pay your therapist. I hope that was not too confusing, but those are basically the two categories when it comes to looking at finances. And so you really want to think about that, in terms of the differences and competency levels. Honestly, I have a therapist who’s out-of-network and I have a therapist who’s also in-network right now. I have two therapists right now.
Alyssa Scolari [13:44]:
Is that a little bit out of the ordinary? Yes. Ideally we do not want to have more than one therapist, because things can get very messy. And who wants that much therapy? The reason that I have two therapists right now is because I am doing EMDR, which is a short term type of treatment. And I am sticking with the therapist that I have been with for quite some time now. So I just added a second therapist for the EMDR component, but it’s definitely not a typical thing to have two therapists. So as I said, one of my therapists is out-of-network, one of my therapists is in-network. And I love, the therapist that I have been with the longest is in-network. My EMDR therapist is out-of-network, and I love the therapist that I have now. She’s amazing. She has taught me so much. She has helped me heal from so much.
Alyssa Scolari [14:47]:
So I really can’t say anything about the competency levels. It really isn’t like, oh, this person’s out-of-network, because they have a greater skillset and they’re better. No, no, I really don’t feel like that way whether it’s in-network versus out-of-network. I also really don’t feel that way when it comes to the degree type either. I have met people with master’s degrees who are therapists and they are phenomenal, but I’ve also met psychologists, people with doctorate degrees who are also phenomenal. So none of that stuff really matters. Really the point in knowing if you have out-of-network benefits or not, is so you know what your options are, what are my choices when I’m going to look at a therapist? Because one of the most upsetting feelings is when you doing your research online and you go and you think you find a therapist and you read all through their profile and you love what you’re reading. And you’re like, oh my goodness. I think I could really see myself working with this person. And then you reach out to them and they’re like, ah, I’m out-of-network. I’m out-of-network. I don’t accept your insurance.
Alyssa Scolari [16:04]:
And then it just becomes disappointing because then you’re like back to square one. So I think it’s important to know what your options are. And I think it’s something that’s important to look out for when you are doing your searches. And speaking of searches, where do you search? Where do you even begin? One of the most common search engines for therapists and really for anything obviously is Google, but there are also some different sites where you can check off certain qualifications or specifications, especially when it comes to insurance, or when it comes to the type of therapy that you’re looking for. And you can do that, there’s a website called psychology today. So if you’re not familiar with it, you can go right to http://www.psychologytoday.com, and then you can list either your zip code or the town that you live in and your insurance and your age. And then it will give you a list of all therapists in that area that meet those very specific qualifications.
Alyssa Scolari [17:09]:
That saves you a lot of time, because then you’re not rifling through Google, looking for therapist after therapist, having to click on the page, read through, see if they take insurance, websites like Psychology Today save if you a ton of time. And then there’s also a website called GoodTherapy. That is very, very helpful for people too, so I think it’s http://www.goodtherapy.com. And there are other websites, but those are two of the main ones that I see. There’s definitely a bunch of others. So you will certainly find them, even if you just google therapist, therapist websites, or websites to search for a therapist on, you will find plenty, but it was probably a lot more time saving for you to go through a website like that rather than Google.
Alyssa Scolari [18:03]:
Now, with that being said, not every therapist is necessarily listed on those websites. So maybe Google will be your friend. Who knows. It’s difficult. It’s one of those things when you have to try to see for yourself what feels right for you. So, that’s just the therapist search. Then comes scheduling an appointment and getting in the door. That is the hardest part is showing up to your first session. And I feel like so many people don’t realize when they go to their first session, that they are interviewing the therapist just as much as the therapist is questioning or interviewing them.
Alyssa Scolari [18:51]:
I don’t think people realize that they can ask questions to their therapist. They can ask about their degrees. You can ask about their specialties, their training, their experiences. These are things you would want to know, because ultimately you are entrusting this person with your care. And if you went to a doctor and you hated that doctor, you wouldn’t go back to that doctor. I would hope not. You would be like, forget that doctor. I’m never going back. Same thing goes for a therapist. I don’t know if people really understand the variability that comes among therapists. And it really is a matter of you trying to find what you are looking for. Some people want a therapist who is a blank slate, who can sit there and be like a mirror who just reflects back what you’re saying. Some people really want that. Some people hate that. Some people want a therapist who is a little bit more involved, who can give. Some advice, who can give some opinions and thoughts. Some people are looking for that.
Alyssa Scolari [20:01]:
It completely depends. You might not even know what you’re looking for until you walk in, until you walk right into the office and sit down and start talking to that person, you might be like, I don’t even know if I’m feeling this or, oh, I really do like this. Here’s the thing about therapy. And I say this to everybody who comes in my office, their very first session, any single one of my clients can attest to the fact that I’ve had this spiel with them. The most important predictor of success in therapy is the relationship that you have with your therapist. So, if at the end of the day you aren’t looking forward to talking to your therapist. If you don’t really care for your therapist that much. If you disagree with the way your therapist does things, you are not going to really make much progress or headway in therapy, because the most important thing is feeling like you have a good connection and a good relationship.
Alyssa Scolari [21:07]:
So I encourage you when you do start meeting with therapists, and when you do sit down for those appointments, ask questions, maybe write down ahead of time what kind of questions do you have? What would you want to know about somebody who you are entrusting with your trauma? What would you want to know? Some things that I’d like to know is what’s your experience with this? What types of trauma have you worked with? Something I would like to know is why? Why do you do what you do? I think that’s a really important question. I really like vulnerability. I think that when you are able to see your therapist as a human being, I think that, that can be really, really powerful.
Alyssa Scolari [21:58]:
So maybe ask that question, why did you choose to do that? And again, you’re not asking so you can get your therapist to disclose their deepest, darkest vulnerabilities, but it’s just like, why do you care? It’s almost like, why do you care about me? Why would you care about this? What do you do this for? Any therapist, I think would be more than happy to answer that question. And along with any other questions you may have that aren’t, again, super invasive. You don’t want walk in there and be like, how many kids do you have? Do you have a history of trauma? Are you married? Have you ever had an addiction? We’re not grilling them. We’re not grilling them, but asking questions that pertain to you and the treatment process. You are interviewing your therapist.
Alyssa Scolari [22:48]:
And if you don’t like it, you don’t have to stay. That is one of the most important things. I wish I had known this when I was younger, the very first therapist I ever had. Oh, for the love of God, she was great. However, she couldn’t be great all of the time and nobody can. I’m not expecting perfection. But what I mean by that is when she was focused, she was really helpful to me. But there were so many times throughout our sessions where I would be talking about something horrific. I had just gotten out of an abusive relationship. My whole family turned against me. Nobody was talking to me. I was so lost and so isolated because everybody blamed me for what happened.
Alyssa Scolari [23:55]:
So I am about as raw and as vulnerable as I could possibly be. And I would be sitting there trying to talk to her, and in the middle of me talking, she would cut me off because she would be like, oh my God, I have to get up and I have to fix the blinds. The blinds are uneven. The blinds are uneven. I’m sorry, I have ADHD. I’m sorry, I have ADHD. And she would say that to me, I would be in the middle, not to mention during this time I was so sick with anorexia, that it is actually very upsetting to even think about. And I remember there was this one time where I was telling her that I was not eating. I was like, hey, I think that I have a little bit of a problem, because I’m not eating, and I hate my body all of the time.
Alyssa Scolari [24:48]:
And in the middle of me trying to say that, she cut me off and was like, oh my God, do you see these curtains? Do you see how uneven they are? And there was another chair sitting next to me in the office. Yo, this woman, this woman got up out of her chair, walked over to me, stepped up on the chair next to me, took the curtain rod off and was readjusting the curtains as I was trying to tell her that I was not eating. And then she had really no remorse. I don’t even think she realized how inappropriate it was. I didn’t even realize it, because I had never had another therapist. I didn’t realize that was wrong. I was so used to being ignored and unheard.
Alyssa Scolari [25:45]:
And so I’m like, okay, well, she’s just not listening to me right now. So, that’s an extreme example. I’m not saying that you are going to maybe pick up on something like that, because I actually don’t think most therapists do that. She was wildly inappropriate. I hope most therapists don’t do that. If they do, we’ve got problems, we’ve got big problems. But look for things that make you feel uncomfortable. And when I say look for things, I don’t mean actively seek out and try to find something wrong with your therapist. Listen, none of us are perfect. Are you kidding me? There are times where I have cut people off. I’ve been aware of it. There are times where I have said things that I have meant to be helpful, but were not helpful, and may have been hurtful. And I’ve had to own that and sit with that. We are not perfect.
Alyssa Scolari [26:47]:
So I’m not saying go looking for something that’s wrong. What I’m saying is pay attention to those feelings in your gut that say, I don’t know if this is going to work. If you’re really feeling uncomfortable and not really wanting to talk or open up, pay attention to that, try to figure out why? Maybe it is something you talk to your therapist about. I actually think that, that is the way to go. If you’re not feeling something, or if you have concerns about something, talk to your therapist about it if you feel safe. If you don’t feel safe, and if you’re like, this person is absolutely not the one for me, and I feel really unsafe emotionally, not physically, if you feel physically unsafe, well, again, we got real big problems than we got to talk, but I’m talking about a sense of emotional safety here.
Alyssa Scolari [27:46]:
So those are things you need to pay attention to. And if you feel like you can’t bring it up with your therapist, or you just don’t feel comfortable talking to your therapist about it, then maybe that’s a sign that this isn’t the right therapist for you. And maybe not. Maybe it’s just a sign that you’ve had a bad week. What I’m saying here, the advice that I’m giving, it’s not a blanket statement. It’s not blanket advice, meaning it’s not something that’s going to apply in every single situation. I love the therapist I have now, but I can tell you that there are some days where I’m like, I can’t talk to her today. I can’t open up to her today, but that doesn’t have anything to do with her making me uncomfortable.
Alyssa Scolari [28:27]:
I hope that this is making sense for you all who are listening on the other side, because I do not want you to walk away from this thinking, oh, well, I felt like I couldn’t really open up to my therapist today. So they must be terrible and I must not be doing this right. And I must need a new therapist. I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying that you have the power to walk away. You have the power to ask questions and that you are in the driver’s seat. You are the one in control here. Yes, your therapist is technically an authoritative figure. Your therapist is the professional there helping you as the client, but this is your treatment. This is your care. And nobody knows the way to help you better than you, not even the best therapist on the face of the planet.
Alyssa Scolari [29:21]:
So I just want you to feel empowered, to be able to recognize that and make those decisions. I wish that I knew what I know now about being able to walk away from a therapist, about the fact that it’s okay if you don’t click with a therapist. That’s totally fine, and even normal. I remember I had another therapist who I saw for a few sessions and I was, again, this was when I was in the thick of my anorexia and I was hating my body. I was really, really severe with a body dysmorphia. And this therapist kept saying, but Alyssa, you’re beautiful. You’re beautiful. You’re skinny. And you’re so pretty. And it made me really uncomfortable. I didn’t understand why back then, because I really didn’t know much about eating disorders. I didn’t even understand that I had an eating disorder.
Alyssa Scolari [30:22]:
And we know now, I know now that, that’s not the thing to say to somebody who is struggling with that kind of stuff, it’s really not at all. It just further terrified me because I knew that I was incapable of remaining that thin for the rest of my life. And she was glorifying me for my thinness, but you’re beautiful and you’re thin and you have nothing to worry about. So there was a little bit of some fat phobia there. She was not an eating disorder therapist, and it was not a good fit. I didn’t feel that I could tell her that. And so I totally ghosted her and I really do regret it, because being a therapist now, I know that’s not a good feeling. It’s a horrible feeling when clients ghost you. And I wish that I had the tools back then to know, hey, it’s okay to say, I’m sorry, but I just don’t think we’re a good fit, but thank you for your time, in a simple email.
Alyssa Scolari [31:30]:
I wish I would’ve done that. I didn’t. And I don’t even remember her name at this point, but again, I think I would’ve saved myself so much trouble and I would’ve felt less guilty about leaving and walking away. And I would’ve found a therapist who was a better fit for me much sooner if I knew that I could. So I hope that this is making sense and that this is helpful. It’s so important when it comes to trying to find somebody who can help you, because this isn’t something to be taken lightly. The person that you want to help you is going to be there for you in your most vulnerable moments. And that’s not something that I want you or anybody to walk into blindly, or feeling like you don’t have control. You have control. Just because you have one session with a therapist does not mean that you are committed, and your voice matters in therapy.
Alyssa Scolari [32:41]:
So if you are thinking about starting therapy, or if you’re with a therapist right now that you don’t know if it’s really doing you a whole lot of good, or you don’t really know if you’re connecting very well. These are just some things I want you to think about. Start asking questions, start doing some reflection, start seeing if there’s anyone else out there who you think might be a little bit better for you, or maybe just consider the fact that you’re having a really bad week and it’s really hard to open up. I can’t answer that for you, I wish I could, but I do know that if you keep these things in mind that I’ve talked about today, it’s going to help get you the answers that you need, and it’s going to help get you better therapy. Therapy where you feel comfortable, where you can be vulnerable, therapy that isn’t breaking the bank, all of the above.
Alyssa Scolari [33:38]:
So on that note, I will close off by saying thank you as always for all of the support. Just some housekeeping things. So for the entire month of March, we are making donations to Doctors Without Borders, who are right now helping in Ukraine. And you can go right to the links in the show notes and learn more about Doctors Without Borders. But if you sign up to become a Patreon member for the month of March, whatever you donate for March on my Patreon, I will match your donation and that money will go directly to Doctors Without Borders. Thank you so much for the patrons who have signed up so far. It is really exciting. Also remember that if you are a patron, you can message me on there and you can ask for specific episode topics that I’d be more than happy to talk about. And again, all of it is in the show notes. And I am wishing you all a wonderful week. I love you all. I am so grateful for the support. I am holding you in the light and I will see you next week.
Alyssa Scolari [34:56]:
Thanks for listening everyone. For more information, please head over to lightaftertrauma.com, or you can also follow us on social media. On Instagram we are at Light After Trauma, and on Twitter it is at Light After Pod. Lastly, please head over to patreon.com/lightaftertrauma to support our show. We are asking for $5 a month, which is the equivalent to a cup of coffee at Starbucks. So please head on over, again, that’s patreon.com/lightaftertrauma. Thank you. And we appreciate your support.
Speaker 4 [35:33]:
Sunday morning lost my shoes, I got [lust 00:35:47] in you.