How To Find A Therapist
Finding a therapist can be a daunting task if you are not familiar with the process. What I believe is most important about starting the therapy journey is being informed. Often when a client first calls I hear, “This is the first time I have done this. I am not sure what to expect or what to ask.”
This is meant to be an informational guide to what to expect when looking for a therapist. While there are some specifics for adoptees, it can also be used by anyone else looking for mental health services.
What to do before calling a therapist:
Call your insurance company and check on your benefits. You may have a deductible, or a co-pay, or coinsurance that kicks in after you meet your deductible.
Deductible: amount that you have to pay out of pocket before there are any “discounts”.
Co-pay: amount that you pay at each session. Typically a flat rate set by the insurance company.
Coinsurance: certain percentage you pay of the session cost based on your plan. Typically applies after you have met your deductible.
If you do not have insurance, the clinician may have an out-of-pocket or sliding scale available. You can find that information on their website, or call and ask.
What should I look for in a therapist?
There are different mental health providers within the mental health field. Clinicians are all working towards the same goal (having their clients functioning in a healthy and productive way); however, they have different ways of approaching this goal. Make sure that the clinician is licensed. There are “coaches” that may say they provide similar services and have some “training”, but unless they have a state approved license, they are not considered a professionally trained clinician. It is important to see a licensed clinician because it means there are certain guidelines and requirements that the clinician has had to achieve in order to become licensed. These act as safety measures to protect the public from anyone claiming that they are able to provide therapy services.
The specific letters behind their name denotes their license, and the level that they are licensed. Some of the different licenses are:
LMFT = Licensed marriage and family therapists
LMSW = Licensed master’s level social workers
LICSW = Licensed clinical social worker (master’s level)
LP = Licensed psychologists
LPC = Licensed professional counselor
“LL” = limited license. This clinician has met some of the requirements, but has not taken the full licensure test. Clinicians with an “LL” are required to be supervised by someone who is fully licensed.
“L” = fully licensed. This clinician has met all of the criteria and requirements, including passing the licensure exam.
*Other letters denote specific certifications that the clinician has done beyond their designated license.
Please note that “life coaches” are not licensed. This means that there is no regulating body that oversees them and the care that they provide. There is no curriculum or guidelines for becoming a “life coach”.
How do I find a therapist?
Ask around. Ask some friends or your doctor who they would recommend. Below are some other online resources that can help narrow your search.
You can also check on your insurance company’s website. They will have a list of clinicians that are in your network.
Some resources are:
Understand what you are looking for in therapy. What issues do you want to address? You may not always know, and that is ok. Sometimes just having a working knowledge gives you an idea of what you are looking for when looking for a therapist (e.g. if you are grieving, then you will want to look for someone who has a background in working with grief).
When you are a person of color, it is beneficial in many ways to also have a therapist who is also a person of color; however, depending on the area that you live in it the options may be limited. This is the same as an adoptee. It is beneficial in many ways to speak with another adoptee, however, that is not always possible. Having certain things in common (e.g. being a person of color and/or an adoptee) is not always a guarantee that you will get along with the therapist or connect in a therapeutic way. This is just as it is in real life: just because you have some things in common, does not mean you will get along.
For adoptees, it is helpful to find a clinician who understands adoption, grief, loss, trauma, racial/ethnic identity and dynamics and someone who understands the nuances and intersections of these in a person’s life. Some clinicians have additional training and certification in specific areas like substance abuse/addition, trauma, and adoption to name a few. These would be listed on their website, or other listing, or you can ask if they have an area of specialty.
What questions should I ask?
After doing your research, you should have a list of clinicians to call. When making your list of questions be cognizant of how many you are asking and chose the top 3-5 that are most important to you.
Some suggestions are:
How often do you see clients who have a personal experience with adoption?
Do you see adult adoptees, adoptive parents, or birth parents?
What is your experience working with transracial adoptees?
Have you ever taken any training specifically about adoption? What types of trainings were these (about adoption issues, about specific therapeutic approaches to adoption)?
What types of general therapy approaches do you use?
These questions should be a starting point and give the adoptee a place to begin to understand the therapist as a whole, not just for their specific adoption knowledge.
The two areas that can be deal breakers are insurance and availability.
Verify that they take your insurance (if you have insurance). If you do not have insurance, you can ask about a sliding scale (fees based on your income or what you can afford), or what their out-of-pocket costs are.
Ask about their hours. This is especially important if your job does not have a lot of flexibility and you have limited hours. Therapists also have families and lives outside of the office (surprise, I know!), so do not expect that they will be available after your work hours all the time. After school and evening hours tend to fill up fast, so be prepared to be flexible in your schedule as well (as much as you can be!).
Therapy is not intended to tell you what to do, or to tell you that you are right or wrong. Therapy should guide you in understanding the full context and contributors to your thoughts, feelings, behaviors and how they are affected by one another.
During the first few sessions your therapist is working to get to know you and understand how you are making sense of your world. This means you may end up doing a lot of the talking. The bulk of the “work” is done in the middle where there is more conversation.
The most important part in finding a good therapist is finding one that you connect well with. This means someone who is a good “fit” for you in regards to their style and in how they relate to you. Sometimes you cannot vet this out until you are at the intake session and meet the therapist and sit down and start talking. If you find that you are not a good fit in this session, or in the next few weeks, you can bring it up with the therapist. It may just be a misunderstanding, or it may be a difference in style. This is not commentary on either person, but sometimes we just do not jive well with one another. If your gut says you are not a good fit with the therapist, then keep looking! It is absolutely acceptable to change therapists and try out a few before settling with one who you feel meets your needs. The goal in the first few sessions is to get to know them as much as they are getting to know you.
What is important in a therapeutic relationship is that you are being heard.
Disclaimer: All content is provided for informational purposes only. Neither KAAN nor any of the suppliers of information or material in connection with this document, accepts any responsibility for decisions made based upon the use of this document.
Written by Katie Bozek, Director of KAAN.