How to Find a Therapist

Finding a therapist sucks. Whether you have a mental illness, suspect that you do, or are just having a difficult time and need someone to talk to, a therapist is a powerful tool for healing and problem-solving. Yet when you’re going through hell, taking the time to find a therapist can be exhausting. However, the right therapist can completely change your life, so it is worth it to put effort into the search, even when it seems completely daunting. To make it a little easier for you, I have broken down the process to give you a jumping off point.

Understand the Labels

First of all, there are a couple of different types of therapists that you can see, so it is a good idea to know what they are to see which one is best for you.

Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are doctors who specialize in mental health. They are licensed to prescribe medication and also provide psychotherapy. Psychiatrists are a great option if you are struggling with severe mental health symptoms that may benefit from medication. Psychiatrist’s sessions do tend to be more expensive, so if you don’t think medication is right for you and are really just looking for therapy, a psychiatrist may not be necessary.

Psychologist

Psychologists have doctoral degrees in psychology and are licensed to provide psychotherapy and psychological testing. While they can’t prescribe medication, they can diagnose you with mental health conditions, and refer you to a psychiatrist if need be. They generally offer cognitive behavior therapy, which helps address your mental health goals by helping you change thought and/or behavioral patterns that are harmful.

Social Worker

You can find a social worker either in a healthcare or social services setting, or some provide private counseling in their own office. They are trained to provide empathetic counseling to help people improve their mental health by addressing interpersonal problems, like family or relationship issues. Social workers are great mediators who may be able to help you if you want couples or family counseling, but they can also counsel one-on-one.

Licensed Counselor

A licensed counselor has at least a master’s degree in counseling and a license from the state in which they practice to diagnose and treat mental illnesses and emotional problems. They can provide help for a whole range of issues, and a session is often more affordable than one with a psychiatrist or psychologist because they don’t require as much higher education to practice.

Keep in mind that having more education, a higher certification, or more years of experience does not necessarily mean that one therapist is better than the other. A newly licensed therapist who has a good grasp on your problem and who jives well with you could help you much more than a psychiatrist with 25 years of experience who you can’t seem to connect with. Keep an open mind to different types of therapists in your search.

Explore Your Options

One way to start looking for therapists is through your health insurance. Many companies will have a provider list on their website that allows you to search for specialists who are covered by your policy. You can also ask your doctor for a referral, or see if your friends or family know of anyone. Another great resource is Psychology Today, where therapists can put up profiles so you can see what they specialize in, get a general idea of their counseling style, and if they take your insurance. The American Psychological Association (APA) also has a similar type of search function on their site as well.

Think About What is Important to You

Once you have a few options, consider what you need in a therapist. There are the more obvious things, such as being nonjudgmental and empathetic, but also think about little logistical things that will influence how much you get out of therapy. For example, consider the location of any potential therapist; is that somewhere you are going to be able to get to on a regular basis? That one counselor who is an hour away may seem like a great personality fit, but if there is a different therapist who is located within five miles of your home who could help you too, you will be more likely to make the trek each week. Additionally, consider what they specialize in and whether their background seems like they would be able to help with your specific needs. You should also think about whether or not you would feel more comfortable opening up to a therapist of a certain gender. Keep an open mind because you may be surprised who can help you, but be honest with yourself about what you really want out of therapy and who can provide it.

Ask Questions

The next step will be to call up your remaining options and see if they are taking new clients. If they are, see if they provide a free consultation session (this is pretty common). Don’t be afraid to schedule these sessions with several therapists to help you figure out which is the best fit. Whether you get in front of them for these questions or they happen over the phone, here are a couple of things you may want to ask:

  • Do you take my insurance? Even if you found this therapist through your health insurance, that information could be outdated, so it is always a good idea to double-check with the therapist.
  • Do you do regular appointments or is scheduling more flexible?
  • What do you specialize in? Even if you saw their list of specialities online, hearing them tell you gives you a better idea of what they truly have a strong background in.
  • What is your approach to therapy?
  • What happens if I have to miss or am late to a session?
  • What do we do during a session? Do I have to do things between sessions like homework?
  • Do you do phone sessions?
  • Do you think you can help me with my problem?

Give it a Try

You might leave your first therapy session feeling uncomfortable or overwhelmed. Starting a new relationship with a therapist can be daunting, and the experience of talking about your deepest feelings for an hour can be really disorienting if you’re not used to it. Don’t let this dissuade you from going back. The benefits of therapy happen over time as you grow your relationship and unpack more of your issues. It may only take few sessions, or you may form a long-term relationship with this therapist, but if you give therapy your best try, you may find that you find relief from whatever is troubling you, or at least, some perspective on it.

I hope these tips help you find a therapist who can truly help you. Godspeed in your search!

XOXO,
Ginzo

I Think I’m Depressed. What Do I Do About It?

Hi Ginzo,

I think I’m maybe depressed. I like my life a lot: I have a great job, a great relationship, a great family, but I feel empty about it all recently. Sometimes I just don’t feel as lucky as I really am. I just feel sort of numb to it all. Sometimes I feel happy or just okay but most of the time I don’t feel anything or I feel vaguely sad. Nothing in particular happened to make me feel this way but for the last few weeks I just don’t really feel like myself, sort of like I am a shell most of the time. Writing this down makes me feel more and more like it is depression. So I guess what I am really asking is what do I do about it?

Probably Depressed

Dear Probably Depressed,

I am so sorry you are feeling this way. I hate that empty feeling. It’s almost worse than the sadness or the anger because it just feels like nothing can move you either way. That numbness can feel so paralyzing.

I am not a doctor and even if I was, I couldn’t diagnose you from a letter, but I will say that as a person with depression, I can relate to the symptoms you’re describing. It doesn’t matter if everything in my life is going wonderfully; if I don’t have enough serotonin and dopamine in my brain, a depressive episode is inevitable. This is one way I like to look at it that helps me; from a more clinical perspective. Maybe it is from my psychology degree, but breaking down my mental illness into a more removed, scientific explanation makes me feel better. It’s not that I am this horrible person who doesn’t deserve to feel happiness; it’s that my brain chemistry is a little wonky and I need to do what I can to rebalance it.

Depression has a way of telling you that you are stupid or wrong or weird for feeling the way that you do. You are not. And it’s okay if you can’t believe that right now, or if you don’t have it in you to do a single thing about it today, that’s okay. But if you feel capable of making some changes, here are some strategies I use when I am depressed.

Identify It

When you start to feel those feelings of numbness and sadness, it can help just to identify it. Knowing what you are feeling is the first step in changing it. Even if you can’t change it, identifying your emotions alone can be a good practice in emotional regulation. Every time you realize “I feel sad” or “I feel depressed” or “I feel numb,” you are gaining a greater understanding of your emotions, giving you the tools you need to better control them.

Talk to Someone

Honestly, this is the one I have the hardest time with. I am not one to be quick to reach out when I am depressed; it feels like an insurmountable task, and there is always that scary feeling of “What if they don’t respond the way I want them to?” While it’s true that even the most well-intentioned might not say what you wanted or needed to hear, it’s less about what they say and more about the act of saying it out loud. Talking about it makes it not a secret anymore. Both secrets and depression are big loads to carry by yourself. Give yourself a break from carrying such heaviness alone by leaning on someone for a moment, whether it’s a friend, family member, therapist, religious leader, or someone else you trust.

Do Something for Ten Minutes

This is a strategy I use even when I am not depressed, but am feeling unmotivated or lethargic and need to get something done. I commit to doing that something for ten minutes. I set a timer and if after ten minutes, I want to continue doing it, I can, but if I don’t want to, I can stop and do whatever I want. When you’re feeling numb, it can be hard to motivate yourself to do a damn thing, but letting your responsibilities pile up can be an anxiety nightmare that just makes things worse. If there is an obligation that is hanging over your head, whether it is writing a paper or cleaning your room, set a timer and give it ten minutes of your time. Even if you quit after ten minutes, at least you are ten minutes closer to finishing the task than you were before.

Write it Down

Awesome news: the fact that you feel like writing this letter made you think you might be depressed means that you would be a kickass journaler. If this is not something you already do, buy yourself a cool notebook to write in and try writing down your thoughts before you go to sleep at night or first thing when you wake up in the morning or really whenever, as long as you keep up with it. Journaling not only lets us process our feelings, as an added bonus, it gives us a log of all of our feels that we can then go back over to look for patterns. This can be a great way to figure out times when you are particularly vulnerable to feeling that numb or sad feeling.

Find Your Form of Meditation

Meditation is a really powerful tool for dealing with depression because it brings you back to the present moment. Instead of focusing on the intrusive negative thoughts or numbness you feel, you are aware of your breath or the way your skin feels or a certain sound. Some people find it impossible to sit still for just meditating (myself included) so they have to find other ways to recreate this same effect. Yoga has been really helpful for me because of its mind/body connection. By focusing on what I am doing with my body, I must stay present. Pretty much anything that calms you that you focus on entirely in the moment can help with this, though. For example, I like to deep clean my kitchen as another form of meditation. It makes me feel productive and in control while allowing me to kind of switch off my brain. You could also knit, color, draw, run, bike, cook a delicious meal, or any other activity that encourages mindfulness.

Seek Treatment

There are a lot of reasons why people avoid seeking professional help, and as someone who has avoided it in the past, I can understand it. That being said, going to therapy has been incredibly helpful in treating my depression, and I really believe it is something that everyone should experience at least once. Other people find medication way more helpful in managing their mental health. Regardless of your preferred treatment method, consider seeking professional help for the way you are feeling. A helpful tool for finding therapists is Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist search. Your health insurance should also have a database available online of therapists and psychiatrists that are covered by your plan.

I hope that you find a way to ease the numbness and sadness, or at least manage it in a way that it doesn’t intrude on your joy. Know that you are not alone, and even when it doesn’t feel like it, there is hope. Sending you solidarity and good vibes.

XOXO,
Ginzo