I am writing this from a US perspective and how I have frequently reviewed therapists during my time. I use Psychology Today to review social workers, therapists, and psychiatrists. I will also go over some good and bad therapists/psychiatrists I have met from my own sessions to those I have met from sitting in on other's sessions. I want to add that you aren't obligated to stay with the first therapist you meet. You are allowed to meet a few until you find one that will work best with you and that you can trust. That's the key: Someone you can TRUST. They won't take it personally if you decide to see someone else. It's well understood in the profession so don't worry!
What you will need to know before you contact:
1. What health insurance you have and the number (if applicable)
Some therapists only take specific insurances or are willing to do a cash payment for
each session. You'll want to make sure you only search for those that work with your
payment method and sift out the rest. If you have something like Medicaid (state-run
health insurance) you will have certain limitations. Such as Medicaid in Colorado
Springs cannot look for medical professionals up in Denver. They won't even see your
account as active unless you transfer your insurance there.
2. What specific concerns you may have (i.e. focus on trauma, depression, coping help etc)
All therapists should be schooled on the basics: depression and anxiety. However, if you are looking for more specific concerns that require a specialist (such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD) you may want to skim their profile to see if they cover this. There are some specialties that will be hard to find and may require you to reach out to various therapists to see if they happen to know someone who can take care of it.
3. The geographical range you are willing to drive to see them
Some people are willing to drive pretty far when they meet the right person. There are also others who have time restrictions and have to make sure they find someone closer. If you are on Medicaid, your area to search is limited usually to the city you are in. However, if you are willing to pay cash, this opens up a much wider range to look through.
4. If you prefer a female or a male therapist.
From personal experience and by nature, females tend to be more gentle, supportive, and wanting to provide acceptance. Males tend to find an issue and focus on solving the problem. So depending on where you are in your struggle, you may want to search for a certain gender. Now I'm not saying that the females won't be focusing on the problem, but it may be more of a gentler and slower approach. I'm also not saying males can't be supportive and understanding, but it's a general theme among the two that each approaches therapy slightly differently. If you are searching for someone to just help you solve or fix a problem, a male may be better at assisting. If you aren't sure, then try both and find out what works best for you. Some therapists may adapt to what their clients need but you won't know until you meet them.
WARNING: Psychology Today has articles written various articles as can be seen on their home page however I would be wary about it. Many of what is being published are skewed due to political leaning and not based on scientific research. Especially research that has already been established in the last few decades if not centuries. I'd be wary reading anything from 2016 to the present and should be compared with other information to see if it stands true. Always find other reliable sources!
Now let's begin the step by step! I will be going through this as if I were looking for a therapist for myself. First, let's go to the website PsychologyToday.com and go to their home page. The layout should look like this:
I will be searching for within my zip code since that's about as far as my Medicaid health insurance will reach. So below is what pops up for me. You'll see options on the side to filter your search, the middle showing various professionals and businesses offering assistance, and the right column has their contact information. There is an added detail that some are offering online therapy. I would recommend that seeing them in person would be the best for your recovery. Being in their office and in front of them sets the tone and creates a comfortable setting you can be open in. If you are at home doing it online, your therapist will also not see various cues to help them evaluate you and your progress. So if possible, always pick to see them face-to-face.
Like I said before I will be filtering down these options to make sure they fit what I need before I begin contacting anyone. On the left column, I will have to click the "more" option to select Medicaid.
You can see below that now I am only seeing Medicaid therapists in the 80918 area code.
But that's not all I want to make sure of: Sometimes therapists have certain age ranges they work with. I want to make sure they can handle adults. If you are searching for a child then you would pick the appropriate age range to filter for your child. Scroll down a bit and select the age range.
You should be able to see underneath the options that the filter "adult" has been applied.
By this point, I haven't specified any Issues. So although all these therapists are in the 80918 area code, handle adults, and take Medicaid...some may not be able to handle what I need to be helped with.
I'm going to focus on PTSD and trauma so I am going to use that filter. Keep in mind, these filters do not have to be chosen in this order. You can pick any order to sift through the options. If you have too many filters though, you may run out of options. You want to make sure you have at least 5 options to pick from. Not everyone is accepting clients at the same time and their profiles here aren't always up-to-date when they are.
So with my PTSD/Trauma filter, I got these options.
Now the first option doesn't have a picture of a person but a building. This represents a business that has various therapists working there and you would call to find out more information. Sometimes they might have their own individual profiles here on PsychologyToday as well as their general business one they work under. Depending on their client base, the individual therapists may post a profile to personally get attention for clients. Otherwise, the company is who finds the clients and advertises. Businesses like this have a much higher chance of accepting a wider range of insurances so don't count them out! I typically found therapists in this manner because you have to go through a certain government process to be approved to accept Medicaid.
*There is a method to KEEP a therapist if you started out with them before you moved to Medicaid. If you already had a rapport with someone, say while you were on CIGNA and then fell onto hard times, qualified for Medicaid but that therapist doesn't accept Medicaid, your therapist can send in a request to the government to have a special exception to keep seeing you.
I had this happen when I was 26. I was on my parent's Kaiser plan but hit the age where it kicked me off. Due to having health struggles and not being able to afford any health insurance I was put on Medicaid. The person I was seeing could not accept Medicaid but because we already had been meeting for a year, the government accepted that we can still continue. I stayed with her for another 3-4 years while on Medicaid. Even though she doesn't personally accept Medicaid.
Moving on! I'm going to focus on these two options here:
Barber Family Counseling & Wellness and A Safe Haven in the Springs.
Let's start with A Safe Haven in the Springs first. It's a bit easier to decipher when it is only referring to one provider. Then we will go into the second example.
Deby Williamson shown here has her own practice. It tells you where she works, what her qualifications are underneath, the location of her office, and ways to contact her. Each will have an explanation of what they do, their background, and various other details. This can also be a good step in evaluating if they may fit your criteria. Sometimes you can tell by their writing that you DON'T want to meet them. I have only found a few who I eliminated because of that, but it can help if you are having trouble deciding. Careful not too be too harsh in evaluating if it kicks out too many of your options. Only if it is sending red flags or you get that bad warning feeling from reading their "about" section.
The right column, underneath the location and contact information, are their specialties. Deby specializes in Trauma and PTSD, Anxiety, and Depression. Good, that's what I was looking for.
Underneath are the various issues they can deal with as well as mental health concerns. Though I do disassociate, more than the average person, I do not have it quite enough for it to be deemed a disorder so it does not apply to me. Except reading this I know that she will at least be familiar with what I have and be able to help me. A good sign.
Show above are the types of Therapy Approaches she uses. Having dealt with trauma myself, I already know that CBT and DBT are great and would trust someone a little more if they used that therapy method. If you aren't familiar with many or even any therapy methods: don't worry. You can try out different methods once you have established trust with the therapist. Though CBT and DBT are great starts for any issue in my book. There is always something to be learned from this therapy that could be useful during other therapy methods.
Modality is how they handle the sessions. Some will work with families, couples, in groups, or just individuals. If you are planning on possibly bringing in a loved one a few times to work on issues, you will most likely want to see if they accept this modality.
Next would be the finances section. Each session will have a price or a price range that can be paid outside of insurance. (You don't HAVE to use your insurance, even if you have it! Sometimes it might be easier or have fewer restrictions if you don't use your insurance.) Deby accepts Medicaid! She also accepts Tricare which is also government run so it makes sense she would be able to qualify for accepting Medicaid patients.
Some good information to look for are their qualifications. If you think you have a complex mental health issue and you need to talk to someone with plenty of experience, you may want to see how long they have been in practice and when they graduated. Some therapies require a certificate to prove you have completed training and are properly equipped to use this method. Take EMDR for example. The first time I was introduced to EMDR was in a group setting with about 3-4 others besides myself. The problem is this is supposed to be a 1-on-1 session between just you and the therapist. I have heard from a medical professional who got properly trained from the founder of EMDR that it should only be an individual therapy. If the point of this exercise is to be openly vulnerable, it may be impossible to even reach that point if you have others next to you. You are supposed to have trust with who you are opening up to and talking over traumatic experiences with. However....what I was told about it also seems slightly different than what Dr. Shapiro's statement on EMDR states. Goes to show that taking EMDR from a medical professional, but one that is NOT certified in EMDR, dilutes and may ruin the potential you could gain from it.
Also, if you have other issues and require medication to control it such as ADHD....EMDR could be dangerous. Especially in a group setting. Ironically, this happened in a hospital that my friend was in and they refused his ADHD meds (while having his medical paperwork stating he needs it). He responded badly and broke his hand lashing out. My point is: it's good to make sure they are properly taught how to handle certain therapies methods.
The next option on our list of providers we were looking at is Barber Family Counseling & Wellness. Same layout as before but because this is a business that includes different therapists, it encompases all their skills and specialties or issues they work with.
As you can see, the list is much longer than on Deby's. This means they can address more but you'll have to see which therapists available will be able to take on those topics. Typically, they may discuss with other more skilled therapists in their business to help find and build the right path for you. Luckily HIPPA does kick in and they aren't allowed to openly share all details about you (such as name, age, address etc) connected to your struggling issues. It is kept strictly detached as if working on a case study. They will be required to have you sign a paper first giving them permission to discuss with their colleagues. If it's an issue that you may want more insight with and NOT be required to meet or talk to other people...this would be perfect. Unless you have fears about your personal information getting out (it shouldn't due to HIPPA). But you'll be able to determine whether you want more help over that risk or just not choose that option.
Whew! I know that's a lot to cover so far. But there is probably a question you have been asking yourself when reading their names. What do all those letters stand for!? Those will be in a following post since this is already quite long. I will also go into the good and bad therapists, social workers and psychiatrists in that one as well. See you then!