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How to Find the Right Therapist to Treat Anxiety, Depression. Addiction, or to Talk About Situations in Your Life
Have you been wondering how to find a good therapist to treat your anxiety, depression, addiction, or to find a therapist to talk to about situations in your life? Therapists are not one size fits all and by taking some time to do some research, you can find the perfect fit for you.
My name is Nancy, and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Clinical Substance Abuse Counselor. I have been a counselor for 15 years and specialize in addictions. However, I also do mental health counseling, which means I am dually licensed. There are probably millions of articles about how to find a therapist for anxiety or depression, which is not surprising; they are probably the two most common reasons people seek therapy.
Over the years, I have learned that there are some common questions and complaints that people have about starting therapy. There are a lot of misconceptions about it that prevent so many people from seeking help in the first place. Anxiety and depression get a bad rap, and working with a therapist to help manage them is essential. Not only am I a therapist, but I SEE one for my depression and anxiety.
Choosing the best therapist might be scary. It may be difficult. It may be annoying and probably will make you anxious. But don’t give up. And I’m going to help you out.
Seek Therapy for Suicidal Thoughts
At the bottom of this post, I have provided information for the National Suicide Helpline. Please seek help immediately if you are thinking of harming yourself. You can also call your local crisis hotline, you can call 9-1-1, and you can go to any emergency room and tell them. There is help available for you.
Make a list of preferences
You may or may not be mandated to do therapy. If so, mandated treatment does not mean you don’t have a choice. If you are on probation, if you are court-ordered, or even if your employer is suggesting you attend therapy, you have a choice. Sometimes choices are limited based on circumstances such as insurance companies or having no insurance at all, but no one can dictate to you exactly which therapist you HAVE to see.
Your right to choose
In a perfect world, we would be able to choose who we want. But, there are all kinds of circumstances that just don’t allow us to. I practice in Wisconsin, and all states have different procedures for doing things. What I can tell you, however, is in all states, you do have the right to these preferences as clients, whether you are insured or not:
- The right to choose the sex of your therapist
- The right to have a culturally sensitive therapist
- The right to have a counselor who is knowledgeable about your particular problem
- The right to have to individualized therapy or treatment
I encourage you to think about your rights and make a list of questions to ask a potential therapist. Also, make a note of the times and days that would fit into your schedule. It may not always be possible to work around your schedule, but we therapists do try.
Where do I find a therapist for anxiety or depression near me?
I found my therapist when I Googled “faith-based counselors near me.” I scrolled through the list and thought, “hmmm, let me try that.”
Looking in directories is the first step to finding a therapist. However, it is not the last step. Here are the best places find a counselor that is a convenient location to your office, home, daycare, school, or even your church. Because let’s face it, you may not ALWAYS leave to attend therapy from your home address.
Google is an excellent place to start. Here are some tips for your Google search:
- Be specific in your search. For example, “therapists for anxiety near me” or “anxiety and depression counselors near yourcity.”
- Visit local therapist and agency pages
- Read the short biographies on their pages. Those counselor biographiess tell quite a bit about their background, their therapy mantras, their experience, and their specialties.
Call local counseling centers to ask questions about a therapist once you have
I also suggest calling around and asking what the therapist’s specialties are. You probably will not have too many difficulties finding a therapist who treats anxiety and depression but think about your other preferences. Ask questions based on your preferences, also.
What if I have private insurance?
I wish I could tell you that you could see whomever you choose. Unfortunately, insurance companies get to dictate where we go and where we don’t get to go. I apologize for that because it is as frustrating for us as it is for you. Therapists don’t have a say so in that.
Dealing with insurance companies sometimes is a deterrent for a lot of people seeking help. Most insurance companies nowadays have websites where you can search for therapists to treat your anxiety and depression. However, if you are not computer savvy, contact the customer service number on your insurance card. Then ask them for a referral for behavioral health and that you are seeking a mental health therapist. Request names and numbers for at least five therapists.
What if I don’t have any insurance?
The unfortunate part about not having private insurance, and even sometimes with private insurance, options are much more limited. However, please do not think that there are no choices at all.
These are the most common resources:
- County Health and Human Services – this is the best place to start. In Wisconsin, all Health and Human Services agencies provide mental health services and serve those who are not only insured but uninsured. Most states have this agency, and if they do not offer mental health services, they may be able to point you in the right direction.
- Consider applying for Medicaid or Medicare if you have not already done so. MA allows behavioral health services, and if you have insurance, your options are much broader than if you do not.
- Consider agencies that offer a sliding scale.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – SAMHSA is the federal agency that oversees state funding for behavioral health services. They have a behavioral health locator and a plethora of information on their website.
- Sometimes faith-based organizations or other non-profit organizations have limited funding or counselors available.
What to expect at your first counseling session
You will likely be asked to arrive at your appointment approximately 15 minutes early to complete paperwork. Procedures vary from agency to agency, but there are standard forms that you will have to fill out.
No one can force you to sign documents, and no one can force you to do therapy; it is voluntary., even when it is mandated. The paperwork you have to sign is for your protection and confidentiality, and if you don’t sign it, the counselor cannot see you for therapy sessions.
Do not sign anything you do not understand. You have the right to ask questions if you do not understand what you are signing.
Questions your therapist will ask
As if you weren’t anxious enough, you get to meet your therapist. Believe it or not, some therapists have anxiety, too. And we who do, are also anxious for our first session!
Think of the first session as a getting-to-know-you day. It takes a few sessions to start getting right into therapy. But, if you want to go in on your first day and dump it all on your counselor, go ahead. That is what we are here for.
Here are some questions you might be asked during your first session:
- What brought you to therapy?
- Have you every had counseling before?
- Are you taking any medication?
- When you say you have anxiety and depression, tell me about that.
- Do you work?
- How do you manage your symptoms when you are at work ?
- Are you married ?
- Do you have children?
- How does your family feel about your anxiety and depression?
- What would your family and friends say if I asked them about you?
- What would you like to get out of therapy?
These are only some basic questions. The therapist needs to understand who you are, what your symptoms are, and how they interfere with your everyday life. The more we know, the better idea we have about how to approach your therapy. Think of it this way. When you go to the doctor when you are sick, the doctor asks you for your symptoms. That’s what we do, too.
What questions do I ask at my first counseling session?
In 15 years, rarely have clients asked me questions during their first counseling sessions anything about me or what I do. I always ask them if they have any questions. Don’t be scared. I know it seems kind of weird talking to strangers, but we love it when clients ask questions. It helps us learn about you. We want you to be comfortable coming to see us. I get it. Sometimes it is just awkward, and people just don’t know what to ask. Here is a list of questions that your therapist would probably love for you to ask.
- How long have you been a counselor?
- Where did you go to school?
- Do you have a college degree? Is it a Master’s degree (a therapist should have this as a minumum)
- How much will therapy cost?
- How often do I have to come to therapy?
- What kinds of things will we do in therapy?
- Do you have a supervisor that you talk to regularly?
- What if I don’t want you talking to anyone you work about me?
- What if I decide I don’t want to come anymore?
- How long have you done counseling for anxiety and depression?
Culturally sensitive questions you should ask
- What are your thoughts and feelings about people who are LGBTQ?
- Have you had clients before who were LGBTQ?
- How do you feel about religion?
- Do you believe in God?
- What are your thoughts about Christianity?
- Do you have knowledge about other cultures?
- Would you feel comfortable discussing racism?
- If I told you that I don’t trust white people or that I didn’t like them, would you feel comfortable discussing that?
You have the right to ask your therapist any questions you like. You may not always get a response, though, because there are some things that counselors ethically should not disclose. For the most part, however, counselors can answer most of your questions. Be mindful, though; there are some questions that are just inappropriate. I, personally, do not self disclose a whole lot of personal information.
How do I know if I have the right therapist for my depression and anxiety?
Now that you have had some time getting to know each other think about your connection. Sometimes it takes more than one session to honestly know if you have found the right counselor for you. If you don’t feel comfortable, take the time to discuss it with the counselor. Give it some time, and if after talking to your counselor, you still don’t think it is a good fit, it is okay to find another one. It won’t hurt their feelings. We understand.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Your therapist for depression and anxiety will probably use cognitive behavioral therapy. It means we look at your beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. We teach you how they are all connected, we explore them, and we challenge them. We work on what are called cognitive distortions. Saying, “I am a failure,” is a cognitive distortion. We get to pick all that apart. We also work on coping skills and problem-solving.
If your therapist is working on these things with you, then you know at least she know she is using the correct approach.
One thing we hear a lot of is, “therapy doesn’t even work.” My first question is always, “did you do your homework?” Part of therapy is working on the things you learn outside of the counselor’s office. Talking about things is only a way to help process it and make sense of it all. In order for you to feel better, you have to make changes. Thinking about things on your own gives you your own insight about who you are. It is so empowering and it is all part of the painful process.
If you make a connection with your therapist, are open about your thoughts and feelings, and do your homework, you probably will have a good experience. Change takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.
It takes time to find a therapist that is a good fit for you. Keep these things in mind when you are looking:
- Insurance vs no insurance
- Cultural preferences
- Questions you have for the therapist
- It takes time to find the right fit
- You will have to do work outside of the office for your therapy to be effective
- Be patient
I wish you the best of luck on your search!
For your convenience, you can search Therapy Route for a list of providers near you. It is free to use, and will give you a good place to start.
Related articles and resources
- Letter to an Addict From a Book Counselor – a letter written to help people understand that counselors can be compassionate and supportive, even if they have not experienced your life
- Dear Pain – a letter to “pain” which depicts mental illness from the inside looking out
- Self Confidence Begins With a New Pair of Panties – a humorous look at how self confidence starts from the inside out
- How to Overcome Fear|5 Bible Verses for Anxiety – Scriptures to help alleviate fear and anxiety
- Why Seeking Help for Mental Health is Important (and not weak)
- Therapy Route – search for providers near you by entering your zip code. It is free and returns results immediately.
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