What to Know When Choosing a Therapist

If you’re thinking of going to a therapist for the first time or returning after a long hiatus, the choice of practitioners can be daunting. There are a lot of choices out there, and you need to make the one that’s going to be best for you. Before committing to any psychologist or psychiatrist, make sure you understand these six things. They’ll help you make an informed decision, one that will ultimately contribute to your overall well-being.

  1. Whether you need therapy:

    Not every bump in life requires a therapist’s help, but if you think you might benefit from the help of a professional, do some research and figure out if your issues sound like some that could be addressed by therapy. Just a few of the signs that you might benefit from therapy are using drugs or alcohol to cope, grieving a loss, showing signs of depression, experiencing intense anxiety, or feeling unhappy for a long period of time despite trying multiple things to fix it. Ultimately, the question of whether therapy is worth a try is up to you; you might even talk to a therapist once to find out if the professional feels he or she could help with your particular problem.

  2. The different types of therapists:

    Knowing the different types of therapists available to you will help you decide which style will be best for you. Psychiatrists hold a medical degree and can prescribe medication. Psychologists work to identify your issues and help you work through them, often in mental health facilities. Counselors are best for individuals, as well as couples or families, who would benefit from talk therapy.

  3. How therapy works:

    Before committing to any type of therapist, do some research into exactly how your sessions will go and how they will treat you. Most therapy sessions involve lots of talking on your part and building a relationship. Good therapists don’t tell you how to solve a problem, but often guide you through a thought process that can help you determine the best solution for you and your values. Don’t expect to be given the answers but rather to be told how to think about the issues in a productive way.

  4. If your insurance covers it:

    When looking for a therapist, you should go through the same process you would when looking for a new doctor or specialist. Find out what kinds of therapy your insurance covers, how much you’ll be paying, and which doctors are in-network. The number of hoops you have to jump through and how much you have to pay depends on your specific insurance plan, so look into the ins and outs before your first session.

  5. The fees you’ll be charged:

    Therapy is an investment, and just like with any financial commitment you make, you need to make sure you understand what you’re being charged. Find out if a potential therapist charges a full, flat fee or on a sliding scale, and what your likely charge would be.

  6. What qualifications to look for:

    The exact qualifications will of course depend on the type of therapist you’re looking for, but anyone worth their salt will have at least a master’s degree. Find out whether your potential therapist has a master’s, Ph.D., or medical degree, and whether he or she specializes in a certain type of therapy or belongs to any professional organizations. It’s not rude to find out whether a person has treated a condition like yours before. You’re just keeping your best interest in mind, and no therapist will fault you for that.