Mental health is an essential facet of our overall wellbeing. There are many mental maladies that we can suffer from, whether that’s depression, anxiety, PTSD, or stress, and there’s no shame in asking for help. If you do find yourself looking for professional help, like a therapist, getting the right help is as important as finding help at all. In fact, receiving poor therapy or the wrong kind for you can be harmful. How can you be sure that the therapist you’re planning to see is the right one for your needs?
Similar to finding the right insurance agent, we want to help you be confident in the health care options you choose. When you’re looking for a mental health specialist who can assist you, there are a few ways to make sure you go to someone who can help you!
Research, Research, Research
The first step to any service search is finding a well-reviewed provider. This will cut out a large degree of uncertainty before your first meeting, since you’ll know a lot about your therapist’s background. First, you’ll need to find out which therapists are in your area and who are taking new clients. To do this, you can talk to friends, family, and neighbors if they happen to know of or are currently clients of a local therapist.
You can also talk to your doctor to see if they know of any, as well as your insurance agent or insurance company. An agent or insurance company representative may also be able to help you find therapists that are specifically within your network. Websites like Psychology Today’s therapist search tool can be effective for finding out all kinds of information about local therapists.
Don’t let reviews be the deciding factor for you. Therapy is subjective, and what works for you may not for someone else.
This is only the beginning of your research, though. Not only will you need to learn about the specialties of your therapist and their affordability (more on those later), you’ll want to get a feel for who they are and how they interact with their clients. If you know anyone who goes to a therapist, ask how the professional is to work with. Other avenues for therapist reviews are Google (when you search for a therapist, many will have consumer reviews attached) or review sites like Yelp.
Keep in mind that most people who review online tend to have the strongest opinions (if you don’t feel strongly, you likely won’t go through the effort of reviewing), so take the reviews with a pinch of salt. Instead, look for trends in the reviews. If every review notes one common trend, it’s likely true. At the same time, don’t let reviews be the deciding factor for you, since therapy is very subjective, and what works for you may not for someone else. Take it as part of a whole.
You Believe in Their Methods
One of the more common misconceptions about therapists is that they all take the same approach to treating their clients. The image of someone lounging in a chaise lounge spouting their latest dream to a bald, bespectacled man is what many think a therapy session is. While the shadow of Sigmund Freud does loom largely over the public consciousness of psychology, there are many very different approaches to psychological and therapeutic study. This is partially why therapy can be so subjective — some styles of therapy work better for some people than others.
It’s important that you also believe in the type of psychology that your therapist uses, because if you find yourself rolling your eyes at the practices and proposals your therapist is using, you’ll likely get very little out of what they’re saying. Make sure you start therapy by giving yourself the best chance for success.
These differences can make a massive difference in the methods they’ll often undertake and the solutions they can provide.
There are also different types of therapists that you can choose from, which has to do with their training and qualification. These differences can make a massive difference in the methods they’ll often undertake and the solutions they can provide. Psychiatrists are doctors who specialize in mental or psychological conditions. They’re also the only group that can prescribed medications. Psychologists are doctors that are trained in psychological treatment and counseling. The big difference between psychiatrists and psychologists is that psychologists can’t prescribe medication and focus on behavior while psychiatrists focus on your physiology.
You also have licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) and licensed professional counselors (LPC). You’ll want to figure out what type of therapist you’ll want, depending on your need and coverage. It’s also important that you look for any credentials that show continued education and excellence, like LCSW and LPC which separates those types from non-licensed social workers and counselors. They can also signal membership in professional organizations like the American Psychological Association (APA) or the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). This research step will help you find a therapist who has the training and knowledge to help you.
Accepts Medicare Assignment
Affordability can become an issue for many people when receiving mental health treatment. Without coverage, therapy can cost hundreds of dollars a month. If you’re enrolled in Medicare, there’s a good chance that you’ll receive some sort of coverage for mental health treatment and therapy. There are requirements for coverage, like the service must be provided by a clinical psychologist or licensed psychiatrist. These services must also be given in a qualifying outpatient facility like the therapist’s office or a hospital outpatient facility, unless it’s part of inpatient coverage.
If you’re enrolled in Medicare, there’s a good chance that you’ll receive some sort of coverage for mental health treatment and therapy.
The therapist must also accept Medicare assignment to receive coverage for their services. Not all medical professionals agree to accept payment from the Medicare program for their services for a variety of reasons. If your therapist is among them, you won’t receive any financial assistance from Medicare insurance. If you have a Medicare Part C plan, you may also operate within a coverage network, which defines the service providers you can use. If the therapist falls outside your plan’s network, you may need to cover more of the payments or even the full payment.
Trustworthy and Comfortable
When you’ve found a therapist that ticks all the boxes for you, reach out and set up an introductory session. Most therapists will ask prospective clients to join them for an introductory session so they can get a feel for your needs. They’ll ask a number of questions to figure out what the problem is, what you expect out of therapy, and begin figuring out how to get there. While they’re talking to you, figuring out a way forward, this is also your chance to figure them out.
Your therapist shouldn’t be your best friend, but you should be comfortable with them.
Similar to an insurance agent, your therapist shouldn’t be your best friend, but you should be comfortable with them. If you don’t feel a degree of comfort, you’ll be less likely to open up about yourself to them, defeating the purpose of your therapy. This requires a mix of trust in their methods and them as a person, an open mind, and a mix of intangibles that you really need to figure out while you’re there. That’s why this first meeting is so important. It’ll ultimately decide whether you’ll want to continue your therapy with this person.
● ● ●
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, it’s easy to feel lost. A therapist can act as a guide through these negative feelings toward a healthier place emotionally. But you need to find the right therapist for you. Even if they’re incredibly competent, the wrong therapist can offset any progress you may otherwise make. (For example, you likely wouldn’t want to get a Sherpa to guide you through the Amazon). With good preliminary research and knowing what to look for, you’ll be able to find a partner on your journey to a healthier mental state.