Finding a therapist is overwhelming. If you live in a big city, there are so many to choose from....if you can manage the waiting lists. If you’re in a small town, finding a therapist you vibe with might mean commuting. No one should have to brave the process of finding a new (or first) therapist alone, so we’re here to give some tips on navigating the search and customizing it to you.
For those new to therapy, this search can be daunting. You haven’t figure out which approaches work for you, or where your comfort level is. The easiest way to narrow down your search is to decide where you’d most like to see your therapist. Does your schedule best fit someone near your workplace, so you can go on an hour-lunch or after work? You can search practices in the area and narrow down from there. If you have in-home obligations or are far from a variety of offices, you might consider online counseling. Telemental health has fulfilled a need in rural communities and can also be beneficial for those with a packed schedule, because you can see your therapist wherever you are with internet connection.
After figuring out your search area, consider what things are driving you to seek out therapy. What kind of person can you see yourself easily opening up to?
Are they spiritual? Are they a particular gender or race? Do they have a certain approach to therapy that you connect with?
If you are looking for a spiritual or religious therapist, Christian practices are very common throughout the US. This might be a great therapeutic fit if some of your emotional struggles are related to your faith. On the other hand, you might prefer a religiously-unaffiliated therapist if you do not plan to wrestle with religion or if you belong to a religiously marginalized group, the LGBTQ+ community, or fear that you will be negatively judged for specific life experiences like having an abortion or being involved in the sex industry.
Though often unspoken in public conversation, gender, race, class, culture, and sexual orientation can also be an important deciding factor in therapists. For some abuse survivors, being alone with a person of a particular gender might prohibit progress. Opening up to people who do not share your life experiences can prevent you from fully discussing what you need to discuss in therapy. Trans people might thrive best with trans providers who can validate and relate to their experiences, but this can also apply to those who identify with their assigned or ‘biological’ gender, who have experienced abuse at the hands of, or otherwise distrust, people of other genders.
As for race, people of color face particular barriers to finding the right provider. Besides cultural and income-based barriers, people of color can often feel that a white therapist might perceive them in a more negative light than another person of their race might. While interracial therapy is often successful, your comfort level may impede a successful relationship. Luckily, several databases have been compiled of therapists of color, and are accompanied by validating blogs and podcasts. Some great resources are Therapy for Black Girls, Therapy for Black Men, Therapy for Latinx, Latinx Therapy, and National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color. If you find a therapist of a different race who you’d like to work with, that’s great too! If you come from similar socioeconomic backgrounds (such as growing up in a certain economic class, having immigrant parents, etc.) or life experiences (drug addiction, parenthood, etc.), that connection might be more important than finding a therapist of your race.
Acknowledging and asking for what you need can be difficult (especially without the support of a great therapist!) but doing so will make your journey to mental wellness much less turbulent. You can always try out a session or two with a therapist, and move on if the relationship isn’t what you would like. If you do decide that the relationship isn’t working, you can even ask if any other providers in the practice would be a good fit for you. First and foremost, all therapists want to see that their patients are receiving the best care possible, even if that means setting them up with a therapist more suited to them!
In the coming weeks, we will demystify different therapy styles and techniques, and help you determine if your current therapy is working for you. Stay tuned!
Bashshur, R. L., Shannon, G. W., Bashshur, N., & Yellowlees, P. M. (2016, February). The Empirical Evidence for Telemedicine Interventions in Mental Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4744872/.
Chang, D. F., & Berk, A. (2009, October 1). Making cross-racial therapy work: A phenomenological study of clients' experiences of cross-racial therapy. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2855964/.
Doggett, J. A. (2019, September 9). The Best Places On The Internet For People Of Color To Talk About Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.huffpost.com/entry/best-places-online-people-of-color-therapy_l_5d3ad936e4b0c31569e9a74d/amp.