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This seems like a daunting task but don’t despair, there are ways to simplify your search and they are based on the knowledge that you know yourself the best. The first thing you must take stock of is how you are feeling. Do you feel that the most pressing issue is depression or anxiety? Are you struggling with a relationship issue – work, partner, spouse, friend, child, colleague, boss? Do you have trouble sleeping or are you sleeping to much? Have your eating habits changed? Are you worried about having an eating disorder? Are you struggling with addiction? As you make a mental list of what you are going through you will discover that there may be one thing that emerges as your primary concern. That is a great place to start as you can now begin your search for a therapist with your particular issue in mind.
The next thing to take in to account is your willingness to make a commitment to therapy and understanding what that involves. Do you work regular hours or is your schedule flexible? Do you have insurance and if so, does it cover mental health? Do you have out of network coverage and if not, are you able to budget an amount that you can comfortably live with in order to continue going to therapy? It is important that your therapist be conveniently located near work or home so as to minimize extra travel time when 24 hours in a day is just not enough.
Now that you’ve narrowed down some of your parameters, it might be helpful to ask for recommendations from friends, family or your primary care physician. Ask people what they like about their therapist. Ask about style – is the therapist interactive or passive? Does the therapist use a particular type of therapy such as psychodynamic psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy? Does the therapist seem compassionate and caring? Does the therapist specialize in one particular area? There are different ways of dealing with various mental health issues so finding someone who has a strength in your area of concern will be beneficial for your treatment. One therapist cannot treat all things!
If a recommendation is not possible then a good place to start is by looking on Psychology Today. The publication requires that therapists who list with them have an advanced degree and an up to date state license. Many therapists who list on Psychology Today also have their own websites so take a look and get a sense of how some of the selections make you feel. The next thing to do is call and schedule an appointment.
There are many subtle and not so subtle cues that can inform your decision about whether you have found a good match or not. When you make the first call to set up an appointment, the therapist should get back to you within a reasonable amount of time. People who call for therapy have reached a point where they need help and a good therapist will recognize this and respond quickly. During your initial session, be mindful of your feelings – they are the best judge of a good fit. Do you have the sense that the therapist is really listening to you? Does the therapist reflect back some of the things you have communicated so that you know they have heard you? Do you feel comfortable sharing your concerns? Do you feel judged?
Most importantly, take stock of whether you want to return or not. If yes, great – you and your therapist have passed a critical juncture. If not, you still may want to return and let the therapist know about your reservations. This takes courage but it may prove worthwhile and can be an important first step in breaking through some of the fears about therapy. Don’t be afraid to continue your search until you have found someone with whom you can be vulnerable. This requires time to build trust but it is worth the investment. There are a lot of therapists in NYC and your gut will guide you to the one that feels right. Trust what it tells you and open up to the possibilities.