Finding a Therapist
Since I spent my last post encouraging you to consider therapy, this post will help you navigate finding and choosing a therapist who is right for you. One of the first things to do when looking for a therapist is to check into the mental health benefits of your insurance coverage. There are laws that require health insurance companies to cover psychotherapy. You can learn about your mental health benefits by calling the number on the back of your insurance card. You should ask what your co-pay or co-insurance is for therapy sessions and whether you need to meet a deductible prior to the co-pay/co-insurance kicking in. A co-pay is a flat fee that you pay no matter how much the therapist charges. A co-insurance is a percentage of the therapist’s fee that you pay (e.g. 10%) and your insurance company will pay the rest. If using your insurance is affordable you can use the provider search page on your insurance company’s website to search for an in-network therapist in your area.
If you decide not to use your insurance there are often mental health centers that have a sliding fee scale and will determine the rate for your therapy sessions based on your income. You may have to do a little searching for places in your area. Additionally, if you are a student at a university you probably have access to free or inexpensive therapy at your school’s counseling center and I would encourage you to start your search by looking into services there.
Another way to find a therapist is to search for one on www.psychologytoday.com. This website allows you to search based on location, insurance, specialties, gender, etc. Therapists have profiles on the site that include their pictures and a description of their expertise and the way they work.
Types of Therapists
There are a number of ways to become a therapist and the different letters behind therapists’ names can be confusing. At the end of the day, I don’t think there is a significant difference between the types of training and licensing that people receive and what therapy is like with them. Below is a list of the different types of therapists that you might encounter.
- Clinical Psychologist – PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) in clinical psychology or PsyD (Doctor of Psychology)
- Psychiatrist – MD (Medical Doctor); psychiatrist prescribe medication (e.g. antidepressants) and some also do therapy
- Counseling Psychologist – PhD or EdD (Doctor of Education)
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – Masters in Social Work (MSW)
- Marriage & Family Therapist (MFT) – Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy
- Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) – Masters in Counseling
Choosing A Therapist
When you have identified 1-2 therapists that you are interested in you should call and see if you would feel comfortable working with them. One thing to ask about is whether or not the person has experience working with black women. Their understanding of black women may determine to their comfort discussing issues related to gender and race that you might be experiencing. Additionally, if you identify as part of the LGBTQ community you should ask about the therapists’ experience with clients who identify in similar ways.
There are a number of different approaches to therapy that have been proven to be effective. One of the most important things to consider when choosing a therapist is whether you feel comfortable with them and think their approach is a good fit. Sometimes you have to meet with a few different therapists to find the right person for you. I encourage you not to give up on therapy if the first person you meet with isn’t someone you want to continue to work with. Below, I have included a list of the common approaches to therapy. You can use this list to figure out what might be a good fit for you and to ask potential therapists if they work in a similar way. Please note that most therapists integrate a number of approaches into their work with clients.
- Active and strategy focused. These therapists will help you to identify concerns and provide strategies to change unhelpful thoughts and behaviors (e.g. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy [CBT] and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy [ACT]).
- Process and reflection focused. These therapists will let you guide the session and will help you make sense of your experiences and gain insight (e.g. Client-centered therapy).
- Exploring childhood and family experiences. These therapists help you understand how your current behavior and experiences relate to your past. (e.g. Psychodynamic Therapy and Psychoanalytic Therapy).
- Focus on relationship dynamics. These therapists help you understand how you relate to various people in your life and emphasize the dynamics in the therapeutic relationship (e.g. Relational Therapy).
I know it can take a lot of courage to decide to go to therapy and I hope this post will make finding a therapist more less daunting.