Therapist Search 101
There’s a running joke that everyone has a therapist in New York City. If that’s the case, why does it seem so hard to find the right therapist? Speaking both as a practicing psychotherapist and as an LGBT-identified cis femme of color, it can take several tries to find a therapist that feels like a good match. Hopefully, these tips will help you on your search for your ideal therapist!
First, figure out why you’re interested in seeking therapy. Perhaps you notice challenges keep popping up in your polyamorous relationship and want to communicate more effectively with your intimate partners. Maybe you’ve been vying for that Executive position in your firm and notice that board meetings have been giving you tremendous anxiety lately. I’ve worked with a variety of clients to address issues ranging from exploring intimacy to managing depression to living as an investment banker in recovery. Whatever your motivation for seeking treatment, take some time to jot down things you might like to talk about with a professional. We’ll come back to the different types of professionals at the end.
Second, take care to work out a budget for therapy. Emotional well-being is an investment, and you deserve to talk about your issues without worrying about breaking the bank. That said, before starting a search, calculate what you are comfortably able to spend per month on mental health services. You’ll iron out a schedule with your therapist at intake. If you have health insurance, you can call your provider and ask about your in-network and out-of-network benefits for mental health services before you schedule anything. Ask how many sessions would be covered by insurance. You can also pay out of pocket for services, and fees can sometimes be determined by a sliding scale. If clinician fees are a big factor to consider in seeking help, there are training institutes and other organizations committed to providing affordable care to communities. Many have clinicians practicing under the supervision of a fully licensed practitioner as they complete license requirements, so fees can be reduced but quality of care is still maintained. Presently, I practice part-time at an institute that offers lower fees to full-time students.
Once you’ve squared away what you initially want to talk about and how much you’re able to budget per month, I’d recommend doing a web search including the location you’d like to meet in and one of the issues you’d like to work on. For example, a Google search of “Brooklyn Heights therapist for trauma” will yield several names and links. The first four hits take you to psychologytoday.com, a great place to start when looking for a therapist. You’ll find a database full of clinicians with their contact info, location, credentials, specialties, a bio, and fee range. Most also have a photo attached.
You can also look for specific group practices, institutes, or clinics if you’d prefer to find a person based on their affiliation. I work exclusively in LGBT+ affirming spaces and emphasize my focus on intersectionality, subsequently attracting clients interested in talking about their experiences as a Person of Color. I’ve really valued the opportunity to facilitate clients’ exploration of gender and sexuality through their unique cultural lens.
This leads to my final tip… Trust the vibe you feel at every point of interaction from opening a website to having that initial phone consult to sitting in the therapy room. Find someone who you feel respects you and will help you work through the issues you have in a safe way. You might not always feel comfortable in therapy, which can be good because discomfort is often an opportunity for growth. However, you should feel safe in the therapeutic space, free from judgment, and trusting of the person you’re going to be spending weeks, months, or years with in therapy. Definitely don’t feel pressured to settle for anyone, and don't ignore red flags if you feel that the person you meet with doesn’t feel like the best possible fit for you. It can be a time consuming process, but the collaborative work you can accomplish with a therapist whose values align with yours can be transformative. I’ve spent months working with therapists that I felt were a “bad fit”, and it doesn’t serve anyone when we ignore that intuition that says, “Ah, this is not working for me.”
Another thing you might want to know about is your clinician’s credential, since a therapist can have a variety of letters after their name. LMSW or LCSW are Licensed Master / Clinical Social Workers. The LCSW credential requires an additional 3-year time commitment to obtain clinical training. As a mental health counselor who’s been supervised by both LMHCs and LCSWs, I’ve observed far more similarities than differences and value in both credentials. Medication cannot be prescribed by these providers, and you would have to see a psychiatrist (M.D.) or nurse practitioner (NP) for medication interventions. For an amazing, expanded list of provider types, please check out my group practice colleague, Lucas Saiter's blog post!
I hope these tips demystified the experience of searching for a therapist and wish you a successful, holistic journey to improved well-being.
Sending positive vibes,
Veronica Chin Hing is a psychotherapist and sex therapist in NYC. Honoring the intersectionality of multicultural issues, gender diversity, and sexuality, Veronica supports clients navigating the complex challenges that arise when holding intricate identities that exist outside the status quo. She helps clients feel accepted unconditionally, and empowered to attain radical acceptance and personal transcendence.
How did today’s blog post make you feel? If there’s a topic you’re curious about, let me know in the comments below, and we can try to explore it in a future blog post. Have a personal question you want me to share in an anonymous blog post? Send me an email, and I’ll post some feedback that way others sharing your challenge can receive support, too!