So you read my last post and think you could benefit from therapy. Now what? This primer on how find a therapist is based on over ten years of experience of receiving therapy services in a variety of settings.
Here are some of the questions you might want answers to:
What the heck is a LPC?
The terms therapist, counselor, and psychotherapist are usually interchangeable in the world of therapy, so what do the letters after a therapist’s name mean? It’s all about the type of education and training that the individual has.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW,LSW)- Licensed clinical social workers have earned a master’s degree in Social Work, which includes coursework and clinical training. After graduation they take the Licensed Master of Social Work exam and spend two years earning hours towards being licensed by the state. Often they offer the most affordable rates as they frequently work in public health and for mental health associations and nonprofits.
Licensed Mental Health Counselor/Licensed Professional Counselor (LMHC, MHC, LPC)- Licensed counselors obtain a master’s degree in Counseling, complete a licensing exam, and complete two years of supervised clinical experience to obtain licensing.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT, MFT)- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists also obtain a master’s degree (in Marriage and Family Therapy), complete an exam, and have two years of supervised clinical experience to obtain licensing. However, their focus is in counseling couples and families.
Doctor of Psychology or Clinical Psychologist (Psy.D)- A clinical psychologist has a doctorate degree in psychology, during which they participate in a two year practicum. A clinical internship is also required. Since these individuals have the most education, they usually charge the highest rate.
Psychiatrist- A medical doctor with a focus in mental illness, usually only provides psychiatric medication prescriptions and not therapy.
What I recommend: All therapists are not created equal, but I have found that this is more dependent on the individual therapist’s personality and therapy methods and not their credentials.
Are there different types of therapy?
Yep, there are different types of therapy, just like there are different types of therapists. Although methods and techniques vary, there are two basic kinds:
CBT– Cognitive behavioral therapy is a method frequently used to identify negative or inaccurate thinking and how this can affect how we feel and behave. Over the course of therapy the therapist facilitates replacing those thoughts with positive ones. In this type of therapy the focus is on doing, using homework exercises, and revising behavior.
Psychoanalytic- In this type of therapy the focus is on talking as a way to gain insight into the core of client’s concerns, as well as connecting them to experiences in early life.
What I recommend: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been the best fit for me because have always preferred having practical exercises, but try both to see what works for you.
Where can I find a therapist?
Are you covered for mental health care through your health insurance? Then the first place to start is by searching their database for therapists near you. Unfortunately, you often can obtain very little information about individual therapists through this search tool. Other places to look include:
Your local college– If you are currently attending college, your school’s counseling office is the place to start. Counseling (both mental health and academic) are services that are offered free of charge to students at most colleges. Even if you are not a college student, some universities with counseling master’s programs offer sliding scale fees for community members to see therapists completing licensing.
Your Church– If you attend a larger church, there may be a licensed therapist on staff to see to the needs of church members. I do not recommend attempting to obtain counseling from a pastor. Unless they also have one of the degrees mentioned above, they are not equipped with the training to oversee therapy in a clinical setting.
A nonprofit such as Jewish Family Services- Most nonprofits offer a sliding scale for payment based on income, so if you are worried about affording therapy, JFS or a similar organization is a great place to start.
A private practice- Without falling down a googling hole, the best way to search for individual therapists in your area is by visiting Psychology Today’s therapist search.
Online therapy at Maven Clinic- Looking for someone that has evening or lunch time appointments available and coming up short? The perfect way to fit therapy into your schedule is by using the Maven Clinic video appointment app, which allows you to schedule appointments with mental health professionals at a time that is convenient to you.
What I recommend: I’ve done it all, except therapy through a church, but currently I am seeing a therapist through Maven Clinic. I highly recommend it for appointments with therapists and other medical professionals.
How much will it cost?
If you have health insurance, currently the ACA requires your plan to cover mental health care. Under my health insurance there is a copay for outpatient mental healthcare.
However, not everyone has health insurance (and sadly, mental health coverage may not always be mandatory) and not every therapist accepts health insurance. What are your options then?
Pay the fee out-of-pocket- This could potentially be pricey, as some therapists charge $150 or more per session.
A sliding scale fee- Mostly available at college counseling centers and nonprofits, although some individual therapists offer this as well. Usually the fee is dependent on your income level and/or the level of education of the therapist.
Try a more affordable option such as Maven Clinic. Appointments with a therapist are $70.
What I recommend: If you have health insurance with an affordable copay, finding a therapist that takes your insurance may be your best bet. I chose to go with Maven because their therapy fee is comparable to my copay and it was easier to find a therapist that was the best fit for me through their platform.
How do I know if they are the right fit?
After you have had a therapy session or two with your first (or just new to you) therapist, ask yourself:
- Do I feel comfortable with this individual/is their personality a good fit?
- Is their therapy style a good fit for me?
- Do I feel like there is an acceptable balance of both sharing from me and feedback from them?
- Do they have experience in the issues I need to discuss/mental illness I have (abuse, PTSD, OCD etc.)?
- Do I feel heard and understood?
- Have we discussed goals for my therapy?
What I recommend: Not every therapist will be a good fit for you, and there are bad therapists out there as well. I know because I’ve experienced two therapists that were just not right for me and the goals I had. If something isn’t working, then you don’t have to go back to that therapist. But know that just because a therapist isn’t a good fit it doesn’t mean that therapy itself isn’t a good fit. Often this is a good reason to start with an organization or practice that has multiple therapists available so you can transfer to someone who might be a better fit for you if necessary.
Do you have any further questions about therapy? Please comment or contact me.