Finding a therapist is daunting. Nearly everyone struggles with discussing their vulnerabilities and struggles–especially with a stranger. Most begin their search by sorting through a long list of names offered up by their insurance company. But meeting the right counselor is a little like dating, and chances are you won’t find the right match after just one visit.
In a popular Reddit thread, guys shared their tips for finding the right mental health professional. Overwhelmingly, the community said it took some trial and error before finding someone they trusted. In the thread, one guy said his first therapist’s office felt like a jail cell. He simply didn’t connect with another.
“But I finally found a person who was the right fit,” he wrote. “She was caring, she listened, she made me feel heard and she made me feel like I was important enough for her time. Not only that but her office was very nice, well decorated, and felt very relaxing. You could tell that she went through the trouble to make sure her patients felt at home and in a safe environment when they were talking to her.”
Many guys first checked the Psychology Today database to find people who look friendly in their photos.
“I went off of picture if I’m being honest,” said one Redditor. “She looked happy and genuine. First time I went off of picture and first good therapist as well.”
“This!,” exclaimed another user. “I chose mine off looks as well, because I know what I’m comfortable around (age, normal looking, etc) and I can’t imagine how much business is lost to those without photos on their psych today profiles!”
Once you find a therapist who seems approachable, it’s important to feel at-ease within the first few sessions, according to many users.
According to licensed psychologist Dr. Colleen Cullen, PsyD of Columbia University, the Psychology Today directory is a good back up in lieu or a referral. She recommends reading the profiles to find someone who is a good fit based on their therapeutic approach and expertise.
Once you’ve ensured the counselor is a licensed clinician, who hopefully takes your insurance, you’ll want to give it about three sessions before determining if it’s a good match.
So what exactly are you looking for?
“You want to make sure that you are ‘comfortable enough’ with the clinician,” Cullen advises. “Your therapist does not necessarily need to be someone who has a lot in common with you, or with whom you would want to be friends.”
But your therapist does need to be someone who you can speak to freely.
“It is very difficult for therapy to be effective if you are not talking about important areas or if the therapist doesn’t know what they should be trying to treat,” says Cullen.
Communication style is another important factor. Consider whether your therapist is as warm or as direct as you prefer within the first few sessions. If you feel judged, misunderstood, or like your therapist is distracted by their phone, it’s best to keep searching, according to Cullen.
That said, you should expect to feel uncomfortable.
“You are often talking about difficult and painful subjects and that can be quite challenging. Individuals shouldn’t expect that they will walk out of every therapy session feeling carefree and happy,” says Cullen.
You may get frustrated during the process, but your mental health is worth the effort.
“Unfortunately there’s no magic trick to find the right match,” advises one Redditor. “You have to just keep looking. If it doesn’t feel like a good fit, cross it off the list and move on. It’s worth it.”
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