How do I find a therapist? That, is the question. Think about the following situation:
It’s late at night, and once again you can’t sleep.
Your thoughts are starting to get away from you again. Maybe it’s that thing that happened at work today, maybe it’s that person in your life who you just can’t seem to free yourself from, or maybe you’re thinking about something that’s looming and it seems to be holding your thoughts captive.
In this space, where many feel they don’t know where else to go, some people decide that they want to seek out a therapist. The decision to begin therapy is a hard decision, and often comes from a place of deep darkness and hopelessness. So once people make this incredibly hard decision, they often have no idea where to start looking for a great therapist. You’re already in a tough place, but now you have to sift through the countless number of therapists in your area, trying to decide who could truly help you.
How do I find a great counselor? How do I find a therapist that can actually help me?
As a therapist, my belief is that the most important component in finding a therapist is finding someone who you can truly connect with. Without this critical component, it may be very difficult to make real progress.
Start by asking friends and family about counselors
The first place I recommend to start is with asking friends or family. Most of us have only a few people in our lives who truly know us. I’m talking about the people who know us to our core. Maybe these are the only people in your life that you feel comfortable talking to about deeply personal things. These people are who I call your “inner circle.” So I would begin by asking the few people in your inner circle, “Hey, I am considering starting therapy. Do you know of any great therapists?”
But maybe you don’t feel comfortable telling anyone about this. Maybe this issue is something that you hold closely. Not even your inner circle can know about this. If this is the case, I would recommend doing a quick Google search using the issue you’re dealing with and your area.
Search “your issue” + “counseling” + “your location” in Google.
For example, if someone were looking for a counselor like me, they may type, “Counselor in Ann Arbor MI anxiety,” or, “motivation issues therapist Ann Arbor Michigan.” This will give you a good general idea of some of the most common resources in your area. Therapists who rank higher in Google are often the most established or currently active therapists in your community. Therapists websites will hopefully give you important information like which issues they typically work with, what their theoretical framework is, and what types of outcomes their clients can expect. Usually the first page to pop up on Google is Psychology Today. This is the number 1 referral source for counselors, therapists, and psychologists.
Check online networks for counselors – Psychology Today or GoodTherapy
Here is a link to my Psychology Today profile. Psychology Today is a great resource because it allows you to get a quick snapshot of several people all on one website. Each therapist has a brief description which highlights how they work and their focus areas. For example, here is something my profile says:
My passion is to help you manage your anxiety, discover or rediscover your true identity, and find your inner motivation again so you can live a more meaningful, fulfilling, and inspired life.
Psychology Today profiles just give you a taste of what each therapist may be like. From there, I recommend going to their practice’s website (if they have one). Usually you can find more information about the therapist there. There are similar resources to Psychology Today, such as GoodTherapy (here is a link to my profile on GoodTherapy).
Ask your county’s Community Mental Health (CMH) agency for counselor referrals
Most states have a Community Mental Health agency in each county. These agencies should have a referral list for therapists. Try giving them a call and asking if they have any recommendations for therapist who specialize in anxiety, or relationship issues, or motivation issues, etc.
Ask your primary care physician about therapists
This option is listed last for a reason. For some reason, the physical health field seems to distance itself from the mental health field, so physicians won’t always readily recommend therapy. This isn’t always the case- I know some doctors who totally recommend evidence based approaches to psychotherapy. Regardless, each medical clinic should have referral recommendations for counselors, therapists, and psychologists. In addition to this, your primary care physician is (hopefully) a medical professional that you have built a trusting relationship with. Since they know your physical body and your personality well, they may be able to at least recommend a therapy style that they think would work best for you (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Existential Therapy, Person Centered Therapy, etc.).
There you have it! Also if you find yourself in the Ann Arbor area, and are looking for a therapist, feel free to contact me. I’d love to help you find someone who you’ll be a great fit with, even if it’s not me!
About the author: Tim Wilkins is the owner and therapist at Identity Counseling Psychology PLLC. Tim’s counseling focus areas are anxiety, motivation, and identity issues. Tim is also an adjunct instructor at Jackson College where he teaches Intro to Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Intro to Counseling.