Living in a big city like Los Angeles has its perks. One of which is that there’s an abundance of psychologists and therapists to choose from. However, that can also make the process of finding the right therapist a little overwhelming. How do you know who’s the right mental health professional for you?
Several of my non-therapist friends have asked me about how to find a ”good” therapist. I’ve been asked enough times that I thought it’d be helpful to write this article for the general public. Here’s the stuff I tell my friends, which I hope will help you, too.
1. Finding the Right Therapist is like Finding a Romantic Partner
No, I’m not telling you to date your psychotherapist or cyber-stalk them. I’m saying that finding a therapist can sometimes take time. Sometimes counselors seem perfect on paper but they don’t actually feel right in person. Or you might have to shop around a little before you find the best fit for you. Don’t go into it thinking that the first therapist you find will be “the one”. And know that maybe it’ll take a few sessions before you really feel comfortable with your psychologist. If you decide after a few sessions that the therapist is not for you, then “break up” with them. There’s no hard feelings, and you don’t want to waste anyone’s time (especially yours). It’s all part of the process!
2. If your Friend or Family Member Suggested You See Their Therapist, that Probably Won’t Work Out
Your friend or family member may have the most awesome therapist ever. Unfortunately, because of certain ethical considerations, therapists usually cannot see members of the same family or close friends of current clients.
However, the good news is that great therapists usually know other great therapists. We tend to flock together. So, even if you can’t see your best friend’s psychologist, that person can probably give you names of some other cool therapist that might be a good fit.
3. Know What You Want and What You Need
Before you even start the hunt for the right therapist, first get a sense of what you want and need from your therapist. Having this in mind before you start pouring through websites and profiles will help you more easily eliminate bad fits.
Here are a few aspects that my friends and clients have considered:
- Do you want a psychologist (doctoral-level therapist) or a Master’s-level therapist?
- Is specific training or expertise important to you?
- Are you more comfortable with a male or female?
- Are there specific days or during specific hours you need to be seen?
- Do you prefer someone who can provide in-home or teletherapy sessions?
- Do you require a higher level of flexibility or privacy than a typical client?
- What kind of therapeutic style do you like? Someone more directive, or someone more supportive?
- Do you want someone who is an expert in a type of treatment and uses that same treatment with all of their clients?
- Is working with someone who understands and embraces cultural complexity and power dynamics important to you?
4. The Internet is Helpful, but Google isn’t Always the Best Matchmaker
Google can be a miracle worker when it comes to finding answers to questions. But it’s not always the best at finding the right people for you.
If you’re familiar with how search engines like Google and Bing work, then you know that there’s something called “search engine optimization” (aka SEO). Meaning, the therapists you see popping up in your search could be awesome… or they could just have a really savvy webmaster that helps their website pop up in searches.
Google tries its best, but whoever shows up on the first two pages of “Best Los Angeles Psychologist” or “Westside therapists” isn’t necessarily the right therapist for you. Maybe the therapist on page 11 is your dream therapist— you just need to keep clicking through to find them.
5. Look up the Therapist on Their Licensing Board’s Website
You would hope that the psychotherapist with the beautifully done website and helpful blog content is a stand-up kind of person. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take a quick minute and look up their name on their licensing board’s website to make sure they’re licensed to practice and don’t have any former or current ethical/legal violations.
If you’re checking out a psychologist in California, you want to look under the Board of Psychology (BOP). If you’re looking into a Master’s-level clinician, you want to check the Board of Behavioral Science (BBS).
6. Use the Free Phone Consultations
Most psychologists or therapists offer free 15 or 20 minute phone consultations. (I have a 20 minute one). This is because they’re invested in having a good fit with their clients as much as you’re wanting a good fit with your therapist. So don’t be shy about scheduling free phone consultations. Use these consultations as a way to weed out the obviously poor fits. Do it with a bunch of therapists to help you get a sense of if you want to schedule an intake session.
7. Don’t be Afraid to Schedule Intakes with More Than One Therapist
Maybe you whittled down your choices to two or three therapists. But now you feel stuck because you can’t tell which of them would be the best person for you. No problem! If you can afford it, go ahead and schedule an intake session with all of them.
Meeting with your psychologist for a full session will give you an even better sense of if they’re the person for you. Keep in mind, though, the intake session is not like a typical therapy session. Your counselor will review their informed consent, gather lots of history, and will likely be in more of an “assessment mode” than “therapy mode”. So you probably won’t leave the session feeling healed, but hopefully you’ll feel understood and comfortable.
Also, keep in mind, even though your psychotherapist will be asking you a lot of questions, you can ask questions, too! Don’t be afraid to ask about issues that are important to you. It may be that you desire a therapist with a certain level of education or extensive experience with your specific struggles. Or it may be most important to you that your therapist understands about neurodiversity and rejects ableism. Whatever it is, it’s okay to ask. Actually, it’s your right to ask!
Click here for more information on online therapy.
Wonder if I’m the psychologist for you? Contact me for a free 20 minute phone consultation.