How to Find a Therapist: Part I

April 21, 2010

Would you want this woman as your therapist?  In Why Did I Get Married Too? Janet Jackson reprises her role of as psychologist, Patricia, who writes self-help books for couples.  In this second installation of the Why did I Get Married saga, we see Patricia deteriorate in an unhealthy marriage.  She seems to have great difficulty with expressing feelings.  She has gone through the death of a child, but the dialogue suggests that her trouble coping with feelings may run even deeper.  She is completely irrational at times.  So, how could she really be helpful to anyone?

The movie was too melodramatic for my taste, but it provides us with a starting point in terms of selecting a therapist.  This point is where we recognize that psychologists and other mental health practitioners are simply human beings. They have crises in their own lives which may lead to them not functioning at their best.  They may have biases and blind spots that they bring with them to sessions.  

It is highly recommended and mandated by some training programs that shrinks be shrunk, or undergo their own therapy.  They are human beings with limitations.  They need to fully be aware of their issues and limitations to help other people.  Some therapists need to take breaks from doing therapy when they become overwhelmed.

In popular media therapists are often portrayed as pretty crazy. I think it is part of our cultural consciousness to be wary of mental health practitioners.  A few are impaired unfortunately. 

However, it is important to know that there are some really great therapists out there!

You must to go into this process as if you are shopping for let’s say, a new car.  You should be comfortable. You are placing some trust in this person.  The therapist should be able to take you where you want to go. There may be a huge financial commitment.  Shop around and then make a decision. 

Your relationship with the therapist is what matters most.  If you feel comfortable and/or heard then you are more than likely making a good choice.  If you feel badgered or judged or bullied, chances are you need to find someone else.  We are often at our most vulnerable point when we seek a therapist, but in this process you need to have basic trust in yourself and your instincts.

Step One:

The first step in finding a good mental health practitioner is to get a referral.  The best places to start include friends or family members.  Sometimes a primary care doctor is helpful, especially if they know you pretty well.  They are typically aware of which practitioners are covered under your insurance policy as well as who is a good therapist in your area. 

If you prefer to go through the phonebook, group practices are good because they may offer several therapists at one site and you will have more choices this way without having to start over.  Therapist listings like the one for the Association of Black Psychologists can be good if having an African American therapist is important to you (see: 

If a therapist you select is not on your insurance carrier’s list of providers, do not be discouraged.  Find out from your carrier if you have “Out of Network” benefits.  If you do, often something can be worked out with the practitioners. 

Sometimes just letting people know you are searching can be helpful.  I have received a few referrals from a friend who is a driving instructor,  just because his students start to open up to him during their time together. 

If you find someone you think may be a good match, and insurance will not cover it, ask the therapist if they have a sliding scale.  Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to pay an out-of-pocket fee.

Some folks are reliant on community clinics for care, based on their insurance situation.  This does not mean you have no power.  If you are assigned someone in a clinic and not satisfied with the care, ask for someone else.  Sometimes employee assistance programs are available through the work place.  Although you may be concerned about people at work knowing your personal business, often these services are off-site and completely confidential.

Step Two:

Have a consultation session with the therapist.  If they do not offer the information upfront, feel free to ask the therapist about their experience working with your particular issue.  Pay attention to how you feel in and after the session.  Go home and think about it.  Then make a decision. 

Deciding to start therapy may be a big step for some but therapy can be healing and rewarding experience.

**This is a three-part series.  The next blog will focus on the many types of therapists.  If you are not sure what type of mental health practitioner is right for you (such as, a psychiatrist versus a psychologist) please wait for the next blog before you begin making phone calls.   A later blog will focus on  the types of therapy available.  I am hoping to have these blogs to you within the week.


5 Responses to “How to Find a Therapist: Part I”

  1. […] What kind do I have?  Well, it would probably be Anxiety Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified, which means I don’t fall easily into any of the categories, but have prominent symptoms.  My symptoms include:  excessive worry, nightmares, and restlessness.  Most of the time I do not have symptoms but the sense of not having control may trigger them.  Yes, therapists have issues too.  We are human after all.  See:  […]

  2. Some people have been researching how to find an analyst and landing at this site. To find an analyst in particular it may be worth it to go through an Institute. You may find an institute in your area through NAAP (National Association for the Advancement of Psychooanalysis).

    Actually, I’m glad this came up because this can be a cost effective way to do treatment if you get a student. The student’s at institutes usually have a degree in a mental health field and are going for additional training. They are getting a great deal of consultation and supervision, and work for a lower fee. Of course you may find fully licensed psychoanalysts through these programs as well. Good Luck!!!!

  3. […] Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)BlogTalkRadio Share Show Widget Posted by makeitplainonline Filed in Armed Forces, Finding a Therapist, Media, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide ·Tags: African American issues, African American mental health, Black Mental Health, How to Select a Psychotherapist, Mental Health, Psychiatrists, Psychoanalysis, Psychologists, Social Workers Leave a Comment » […]

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