I do not know how many people are currently searching for a therapist, but being one, I know that the process is not easy, especially if you have never been in therapy before.
When prospective clients call me they want to know everything about me. Where did I go to school? What therapy do I practice? What is my experience? What clients do I like working with the best? The questions are endless.
These questions might be interesting to chat about at a cocktail party when two people are trying to get to know each other but if you are in pain in your life, knowing everything about me does not help you. What will help you to find the therapist who can help you is to ask them one question: Do you treat ______________ and then mention your situation.
In other words, the question would be something like this:
Do you treat gay men just coming out?
Do you treat couples suffering from infidelity?
Do you work with individuals needing to find more passion in life?
Do you work with clients grieving from the loss of a parent?
See how specific that is?
Clients ask me all the time whether I would be willing to work with them using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy skills. Well -- okay -- sure. But when I tell them I haven't seen them yet so I do not give treatment before the problem -- they get frustrated. Someone told them they need CBT and so that is what they want.
No mental or medical health practitioner should ever treat before a diagnosis. It makes no sense. How could I tell you that I like your soup, if I haven't tasted it?
So, my best tip for anyone looking for a therapist is: define your problem into one sentence and know what you want. For example,
I don't know how to communicate with my weed-smoking 16 year-old daughter. I want a therapist who can help me with a parent/teen problem around drugs and communication.
Sometimes screening a therapist can take many phone calls to many therapists but it will be worth it when you find someone who can work with your issue, no matter what school they went to.
Jan Marquart LCSW