1. First, find out what type of professional you need.
Psychiatrists (MD): Psychiatrists give you medications for your symptoms. This is the only type of doctor that can give you psychiatric medication, as well as your Primary Care Physician.
Psychologists (PhD, PsyD): These are therapists that help you work through your mental health issues that have doctorate degrees.
Therapists (LMFT, LCSW): LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and LCSW is Licensed Clinical Social Worker. These are also therapists that help you work through your problems. They have Master’s Degrees – which doesn’t necessarily mean that they are worse than psychologists. (FYI. LCSW’s are trained social workers too.)
2. If you have insurance, call your insurance or go to their website to see if you can find a list of professionals by specialty.
3. If there is a list, you can go through each name and search them on Google for reviews. Note: Reviews can be (and often are) pretty unreliable, but if you find someone who has only negative reviews, that might be a sign not to go for them. There could be good information about the style of a therapist.
If there isn’t a list, you may have to go to a low-cost clinic for help – this is likely if you have governmental insurance. Call your local NAMI (find yours through www.nami.org) to see if they have a list of free or low-cost clinics who provide therapy. Note: You’re likely to get interns who are trying to get their hours to get licensed (e.g. MFT interns) who are being supervised by a licensed professional – so the quality of therapy can vary.
4. For private therapists, you can ask for a free consultation, which would typically be around 10-15 minutes. This can be done in person or on the phone, depending on the therapist. This is so you get a feel for whether that therapist is right for you.
5. Remember, it can be hard to find a good therapist for you. If you encounter a bad one, I strongly encourage you not to give up and try another one. You can always ask therapists for referrals to other therapists – their feelings won’t be hurt because it happens all the time!
It’s also very easy to tell when therapy isn’t working. You either know within a few sessions, or sometimes, much sooner.
6. And never, never, never care about hurting your therapist’s feelings. If you don’t like how therapy is going, tell them. If they’re a good therapist, they’ll either try to change their therapy tactics in order to serve you better, or let you know if that’s not something they can do (so you can move on to someone else). Ideally, they would refer you to someone else. Communication is CRUCIAL – therapy should be a collaboration, not someone talking at you for 50 minutes.
Here is an excellent article on figuring out whether a therapist is good for you from US News.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask.