Finding a therapist is a deeply personal process. It is most important to find someone you feel safe talking to and who is able to support you as you explore your concerns and plan your pathway to create a life you are passionate about; a life in which you flourish; a life where you are able to express your most authentic self and experience spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being.
Finding a therapist
When you are ready to find a therapist, most people do not know how to start looking. Many people wait until the last moment to look when everything else has failed to help them feel better and nothing is helping them create the lives they want to be living. This makes is difficult to search thoughtfully and to be selective in who you choose to work with.
Some people start by typing "therapist" and "Cambridge, MA" into a web search bar. That might find large numbers of options for anything including physical therapists, massage therapists, mental health professionals. Each listing would need to be reviewed and there are usually links to the websites to learn more about the person or business listed. Listings may or may not be up to date and accurate.
Some people might search on the Psychology Today website for listings of therapists. You can narrow searches on that site to special skills or interest areas (LGBT, men's issues, religion, etc.), gender of therapist, location, insurance or self-pay options, sliding scales, type of license (psychologist, social worker, mental health counselor, marriage and family therapist, etc.). The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) also has a search site for people looking for therapists. Many mental health professional organizations have such sites (e.g., American Psychological Association-APA; American Counseling Association-ACA; American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists-AASECT, and so on).
Sometimes, people can call the member services assistance number on their health insurance card for guidance on what therapists participate in their health plans, or take their insurance. Sometimes the member services people are able to make suggestions based on specific areas that you want to get help with if the therapist has listed their specialties with the insurer. This may be the best way to find therapists who are able to see you using your insurance benefits along with your expected co-payment for each session. Usually there are some limits on how many sessions anyone gets during a year depending on the reason you are seeking supports. Only your insurance carrier customer services people can answer these questions about your specific plan.
Other people might ask friends, community members, co-workers, religious leaders or family members. There is no right or wrong way to find possible people to contact. At times, after a consultation, one therapist may give you references to contact other therapists who might be a better fit.
What we know from years of research and talking with people who have used therapy to support them in personal growth and reaching or retaining a sense of well-being in their lives is that it is the felt connection to the therapist that makes the most difference in whether a person is able to benefit from their treatment. For this reason it is vital that you talk to more than one potential therapist and figure out who you feel you can be the most open and honest with. Who might feel like the best fit for your needs at this moment when you are seeking support? The therapist will also be looking for the best fit between their skills and training and the person seeking support. Sometimes this means that there is a personal sense of comfort with the therapist, however, they do not have the skill or expertise to provide the type services you need. It is very important to tell the therapist in the consultation or first visit exactly what the issue is that you are seeking support to resolve and how you believe they may help you. Mental health professionals have an obligation not to attempt providing care in areas where they are not trained, experienced, or supervised to learn the skills needed unless it is the most unusual of circumstances and there are no other options. In a city the size of Cambridge and in an area the size of this metropolitan region with over 4 million people, it is unlikely that there is no therapist available who has both the skill and the expertise to support whatever your specific needs are at this time.
Not all therapists work for a non-profit organization. Many work on their own, operating their own single or small group businesses. Being a therapist is a job and running a private practice is a business just like many other businesses. Some private practices and small group therapy offices do take insurance and some do not. Some will accept fees below their full costs (sliding scale fees) and some do not. It helps to know ahead of time what you are willing to invest in your mental health treatment with a therapist so that you know whether you can afford to work with a particular therapist if they do not accept payments from your insurance plan. For those who may find it difficult to pay out of pocket for therapy, there are many non-profit organizations in the area where greatly reduced rates are often available and where people can get assistance to enroll in financial supports when needed. These are most often found in large health care settings such as hospitals, primary care agencies, and community health care organizations.
Start asking around and searching a few different ways. Explore what leads you get. It is possible there may be overlapping names that come up. That is one way to narrow down who to contact first. Until you begin to look, you cannot find the support you need. Take action today to start reaching your goals for well-being and wholeness.