In the second part of his article series, John Pajarillaga, a Doxa counselor, discusses specifics of choosing the right therapist.
4. Trust your gut
Another way you can determine if a therapist is a good fit for you is by trusting your gut based on your first impression about that therapist.
First impressions matter. And you can learn a lot about a therapist if you visit their website and check out their therapist profile. If they have more than one profile across different therapist directories, take a look at those too.
The way a therapist writes on their website tells you about their communication style and tone. Are they are detail oriented and serious in their approach? Or are they storyteller who writes with humor and whimsy?
What they write about also shows you what’s on their mind and what issues matter to them. If the last few articles they’ve written have been about marriage and parenting, then obviously those are issues they care about and work on with their clients.
Even the color of a website and its layout reveals aspects of a therapist’s personality. Do they use bright and vibrant colors or darker and more subdued ones? Even if their website feels generic, that still tells you something about that person.
Every therapist also has at least one profile picture or a short introductory video of themselves on their website. If a therapist maintains a social media account for their practice, that is also a great source of information.
When you look at their pictures, observe and ask yourself, “Are they smiling? Is it a real smile or forced one? Do they seem confident? Do they seem warm and friendly?” When you watch their videos, observe if they talk in a slow laid back pace or if they rush through their words. Ask yourself, “Is this someone I can trust and open up to?”
Even though websites, pictures, videos and a social media account don’t tell the full story of who that therapist is or what they are like, they tell you enough to give you a good impression. Every detail you glean because they act as context clues and gives you the information you need to make a decision about whether that therapist is a good fit for you.
Why does this matter? Isn’t it superficial to make a decision about seeing a therapist based on the way they look or the content of their website.
I don’t think so. We make split second decisions all the time based on first impressions.
Your gut impression of a therapist is important because going to therapy is a deeply personal experience. As a therapist, I am a witness to many of my clients’ biggest successes and failures. Sometimes I am the only person they’ve told about their deepest heartbreak or the “thing” that fills them with shame. Because of how vulnerable therapy can be, it is important that you find a therapist that who you can trust and connect with.
It all comes down to this question, “What is your gut telling you about this person?” If your first impression is a negative one, then trust yourself and move on because that therapist isn’t right for you.
5. Can you afford them?
Let’s be realistic. Therapy can be expensive. Depending on where you live, therapy can cost $100-200 per session. Unless you make enough money to pay for your sessions out of pocket, you will likely need to use insurance.
I don’t recommend making cost or insurance coverage your main consideration when trying to find a therapist. Not all therapists take insurance and you could end up excluding a lot of good therapists from your list if cost and insurance are the only things you think about. But realistically, cost/insurance coverage might be your second or third priority.
I recommend that you become familiar with your insurance coverage. Call your insurance company, or go to their website, and find out what mental health benefits you have in your policy. If therapy is covered, you should also find out how much your insurance will cover and how much you will be responsible for.
Keep in mind that some therapists will see you even if they don’t take your insurance. You may have to pay full price for it though. If you can’t afford that, you can ask if they have a reduced rate or a sliding scale fee, which simply means that what they charge per session is based on your income or what you can afford. Some therapists even leave a few spots on their caseload available for pro-bono clients as a way of giving back to their community.
You can find out if a therapist takes your insurance, their rates per session, and whether or not they have a sliding scale fee by visiting their website or therapist profile. If their website doesn’t give that information, you can always call or email them and to ask.
As you search for a therapist, you need to consider your availability and the therapist’s availability.
When you are free to come in for therapy doesn’t always match up with when a therapist sees clients. That often means you have to make a decision, will you go to a therapist based on your availability or will you adjust your schedule and come in for therapy based on when the therapist sees clients?
There is no rule of thumb for when therapists will see clients. Some counselors see clients during normal 9am-5pm business hours Mon-Fri and never deviate from that. Other therapist alternate having morning and early afternoon hours on some days and then late afternoon and early evening hours on others days. Some therapists see clients on weekends, some don’t. Therapists choose their hours of availability based on their lifestyle.
Go to a therapist’s website or their therapy profile to find out their hours of availability. Some therapist even allow potential clients to have access to their calendar so that you can see what time slots are still available for sessions. If their website or profile doesn’t have that information, then simply call or email them to ask.
At this point, I’ve written a lot about how to find a therapist. Some points may apply more to you than others. To summarize it all:
1. Start looking.
2. Focus on specialization.
3. Consider demographic preferences.
4. Trust your gut.
5. Consider cost.
6. Consider availability
I hope this guide helps you in your search for a good therapist.
Feel to drop me a line if you think I’d be a good fit as your therapist. If not, we also have other counselors here at Doxa Counseling with specialties in many areas who might be a better fit for you.
Remember to trust your gut and good luck with your search.
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