You have made the decision. Maybe there is a problem that you have struggled with for a long time, and you are reaching a place where you realize it’s time to talk to somebody. You know you want to work through the issues and try to get these things addressed. Good for you! And now what? These days, there are so many choices when it comes to helping professionals. Among others, there are:
And this list just scratches the surface. If you are unsure what some of these people do, you’re not alone. The options are many and vast, and this makes it confusing. However, assuming you are not in crisis, it is worth taking the time to choose someone who is likely to be a good fit. Here are some steps to making a great choice:
1. Ask people you know for recommendations. This is not a fail-safe strategy! Everyone has different tastes and preferences and needs. Still, it is not a bad way to begin. Friends, neighbors, physicians, and teachers can be good people to ask.
2. Check with your insurance company. Mental health services are usually covered, though the coverage varies quite a bit from one policy to the next. It’s good to know who is in your network and what your benefits are in advance.
3. Browse the web for providers in your area.
4. Once you have a list of potential providers, find out where they are located. If you keep the travel time down, it will be more convenient and this translates into fewer cancelled appointments and likely a more successful therapeutic relationship.
5. Make preliminary phone calls and visit websites. Find out which providers are available during the hours that work for you. Ask about parking and access by bus or wheelchair, if applicable.
6. Eliminate those names of providers whose hours and locations are not right for you.
7. Make more inquiries. Phone calls and emails can work; websites can provide much of the information you seek. Find out something about each provider’s background, education, licensure, and specializations. Consider what is important to you here... Did they go to grad school? Do they have credentials? Are they in a regulated profession? Perhaps these items make a difference to you, perhaps not.
8. If possible, speak directly with providers once you have narrowed it down. Ask about their approach. Listen carefully. Are you getting thoughtful answers or a sales pitch?
The bottom line: All types of providers may be helpful, especially if you are motivated and committed. Deciding to seek help is a huge step! You can make the most of this decision by doing a little extra homework before deciding on a provider. Getting help involves investments of finances and time, not to mention some emotional vulnerability. Being deliberate about this choice is well worth the effort, as the discussions you will share with that individual may have a significant influence on your life.