How Do I Find The Right Counselor, Therapist or Psychologist For Me?

What a blessing for us residents who live in the beautiful towns of our own Nevada County in California, nestled in the Sierra Foothills where nature is our playground.  Easy access to the joys of the Yuba River; beautiful lakes for summertime fun; right at the mouth of the wintertime fun of skiing, snowboarding, sledding, snowshoeing; not to mention endless trails to hike year-round; and for walkers and runners, beautiful country roads to explore.  Art, music and community abound! If you’re not from here, I highly recommend a visit!

Wherever you live, no matter the beauty and opportunity of experience at your fingertips, it doesn’t mean that life doesn’t come up with some serious challenges and you don’t sometimes need some support.  If you are looking for a therapist, counselor or psychologist, I’d like to help you find someone who can help!

We have many great psychotherapists in our community who differ vastly in approach, skills, specialties, personality.  Finding a therapist that is a good fit for you is a very personal decision. If you line up three great therapists, but you don’t click with two of them, they aren’t the right person for you!

Here are some tips to finding the right person for you.

Counselor, Therapist, Social Worker, Psychologist..oh my!

What’s the difference? Which one do I need and what are all the acronyms about?

All the various titles and acronyms can be very confusing when you just need someone that can help you. Being informed of the various levels of licensure can help you make your decision about who you want or need to see.

Peer Counselors or Lay Counselors

Peer counselors, also know as Lay counselors  are usually community members with a heart to support and encourage others.  They will likely have been provided with basic counseling skills training through their organization and are trained to be good listeners.  There is no standard of education level to be able to be a Peer or Lay Counselor. They are not professional counselors or therapists but can offer support very often for free through their organizations.

Marriage & Family Therapist Trainee (MFT Trainee)

This is a current graduate student (in a Master’s Degree program) who is embarking on a professional therapist career path.  They are in their second year of graduate school in a Marriage & Family Therapist program who is beginning to accrue supervised clinical hours.

Associate Marriage & Family Therapist (AMFT), Associate Social Worker (ASW), Associate Professional Clinical Counselor (APCC)

This person has completed their Master’s Degree program in the field of Marriage & Family Therapy and are in the process of working toward gaining 3,000 -3,200 supervised clinical hours toward being licensed.  They will be engaging in regular supervision with a licensed therapist to consult on their cases as they continue the education process.

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (MFT or LMFT), Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

This person has completed all required hours and education to obtain full licensure.  Ongoing continued education is required to keep up licensure. Licensed therapists may voluntarily choose to participate in case consultation groups in order to assure they are giving the best to their patients.

Psychologist (PhD or PsyD)

This person has completed doctorate level education plus 3,000 supervised clinical hours to obtain full licensure.  They are licensed to provide psychotherapy along with psychological testing.

How can I know if a therapist is a good fit for me?

There are several factors that can contribute to whether a therapist is a good fit for you.

Do I like them?  Are they speaking my language?

First and foremost, it must be someone that you experience a good level of comfort with and feel like you can build trust and connect with.  If this piece is missing, it’ll be really hard to freely open up in the ways necessary to truly work through your problem. Often times when there is not a good fit, people will automatically assume that therapy doesn’t work, when really, it just wasn’t a good match.

Getting a sense of this may first come from your initial research: asking friends for referrals, an internet search, checking out their website to get a sense of who they are.  After that, request a phone consultation. There is only so much we can tell from a therapist by their online presence, so give them a call. This will be your best option to get a sense of whether your personalities will mesh well.

Can they help me with my specific problem?

You’ll want to find out what they specialize in.  Therapists have training to be knowledgeable in all the key aspects of mental health and diagnoses, however, many will specialize in working with more specific problems.  Think of it as you think of your medical doctors. If you have a heart problem you will see a cardiologist, if you have an issue with your eyes, you will see an ophthamologist.  Similarly, therapists may specialize in various mental health issues such as trauma, depression, OCD, women’s mental health, autism, issues related to aging, military, child therapy, etc.

What about the logistics?

Logistics to work through include:

  • If you are using insurance, does this therapist accept your insurance?  Does your insurance carrier have any limitations to using insurance for mental health?  What is your copay, deductible, number of sessions covered? Do they cover out of network providers?  If so, at what rate?

    • To make this easier, contact your insurance company to find out about your insurance coverage for mental health benefits first.  They can provide you with a list of providers in your area that accept your insurance.  You may also be able to do a Provider Search on their website, usually listed under Behavioral Health.

    • Ask your insurance company if they reimburse for Out of Network Providers and at what percentage they will reimburse.  Some reimburse 80%, some 20% and anything in between or not at all.  If they offer reimbursement for Out of Network Providers, then your options are not limited to those therapists on their provider list.

      • IMPORTANT NOTE:  Many therapist decide not to work with insurance companies for many reasons (cumbersome and time consuming billing processes that take away from time with our clients and clinical development; disclosing diagnoses to the insurance company as part of the patient's medical record; and insurance companies having access to the patient's treatment notes.)  If you are concerned about these issues as well, you might consider going with private pay where your records can be completely confidential.

  • If you are doing private pay, is their fee workable for you?

  • How often are sessions recommended?  Weekly, Biweekly, Monthly?

  • How long are the sessions?

  • Do they have time slots available when you are able to attend sessions?  Are you willing/able to rearrange your schedule to attend sessions when the therapist is available?

I hope this helps you find the right therapist for you!  If you are still feeling stuck, feel free to send me a private message through my website and I may be able to direct you to someone that can help.  If you are looking for help with women’s mental health issues, you can read more about how I can help at www.WiseJourneys.org and give me a call at (530) 913-8545 for a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Happy therapist hunting!