If your’e searching online for ‘therapist near me’ – trust me, you don’t want to just settle for one close to your home or office who conveniently fits into your schedule and who accepts your insurance. You want the best the best therapist you can find for you and your needs.
The stigma surrounding therapy has been a force in the mental health space for decades. The baby boomer generation kept their problems to themselves. No one talked about depression or anxiety – let alone even admitted to themselves they might be experiencing it.
Thankfully, the stigma is starting to fade. Nowadays people talk about their therapy experience in every day conversations with friends and family. Even in the absence of a major crisis, people are seeking out therapy to better themselves, as a partner, father, son, employee or friend.
Better yet, is we’re starting to see public figures, celebrities, professional athletes, and thought leaders sharing publicly their own challenges with mental health.
Contrary to what your parents think, don’t have to have a diagnosed mental illness to talk to a therapist about your problems. Maybe you’re feeling down for no reason at all. Maybe you’ve experienced a big loss in your life, or a brutal break-up. Maybe it feels like you can’t slow down and enjoy what’s right in front of you.
Search for a therapist the same way you would look for a personal trainer: find someone with a motivational style that works best with your personality. You wouldn’t want a trainer that says, “OK, looks like you’re starting to sweat, we can end things here. No need to push it.”
Be clear what you want
Are you looking to resolve past trauma? Are you looking for someone to be a sounding board for a specific challenge you’re facing? Are you looking for strategies to increase your sense of fulfillment and satisfaction? It’s important to know the answers to these questions so you can streamline the process of finding the best therapist for your needs.
Obviously, you’ll consider factors like location, availability, insurance and therapist gender. However, make sure that you focus on the most important thing which is that you like and trust them and feel comfortable talking to them. If your issue is specific, find somebody that specializes in this issue.
Different therapists approach therapy differently. The key factor is determining your needs: supportive or action-oriented and solution-focused? The supportive approach is going to be the type of therapist that’s going to sit and listen and offer empathic feedback. For many men, this is not what they’re looking for. While it’s nice to have someone listen without judgment and offer emotional support, most men are looking for a direct approach with solutions and strategies.
Start by asking around for the best therapist
Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for in a therapist, it’s a good idea to ask friends and family if they have any recommendations. Word of mouth is the best approach. However, maybe you’re not comfortable telling friends and family yet and that’s OK.
Go online and look at therapist directories like Zencare or Psychology Today. or a quick Google search of “best therapist near me” will yield plenty of results of therapists in your geographical area. No doubt, this is time consuming. But it should be because this is important. What’s more important than your well-being?
Don’t get hung up on initials or treatment modalities yet. Studies show that education, degree, modality are not the most important indicator of success in therapy – it’s the quality of the relationship you have with your therapist. Bottom line, focus on trying to find someone you feel like you’re going to connect with.
It’s a good idea to reach out to a few therapists. A good therapist will offer a free phone consultation – which is a great way to get a feel for them. Do they respond quickly? Do they appear friendly and open? Do they have experience working with your area of concern?
During your initial consult, explain what you’re struggling with and ask how they would help. Notice their response. Do they use a lot of jargon or jump right into psychoanalyzing? Maybe it’s not a good fit. But if you like what you hear, set up an appointment. After all, there’s only so much you can get from a phone call. You have to sit in front of somebody to really get an understanding of who they are and how well you’ll connect with them.
Prepare for your first session
Be prepared to talk about what you’re going through, when it started, and how you’ve been handling it. Be prepared to identify goals – or at least have a sense of what needs to change. But remember, you determine if you want to move forward and hire them – not them. So make the most of that first session to get a better understanding of the kind of therapist you’re working with.
If you feel a little uncomfortable after the first session, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You might need to go back for a second or third session to get a sense of whether it’s a good fit. Ask yourself; why do you feel uncomfortable? Was it something they said? Did it seem like they didn’t care or like they weren’t really listening or interested? Those are good reasons to move on and find someone else. If it was simply about feeling vulnerable while sharing things you don’t usually share, this isn’t necessarily tied to the person, more so the process.
Change is uncomfortable – and hard. If you’re looking for quick and easy, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Keep an eye out for red flags
Most importantly, you want to feel like you’re being heard. You don’t want to feel judged or like you’re being pushed in the beginning. If you feel like your therapist is pushing you in a direction you’re not comfortable with, don’t understand, or don’t like – voice your concern. This is a great opportunity to determine the quality of the therapist as their reaction will tell you a lot. A confident, well-trained therapist will appreciate and commend your self-advocacy and understand how and where to pivot next.
You’re the captain of the ship. It’s the therapist’s job is to guide, but you decide where to go.
Finding the best therapist for your needs usually isn’t easy. It’s time consuming and can be frustrating. In a lot of ways it’s like dating; you might have to go on a few bad first dates in order to find the right one.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.