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Choosing a therapist will most likely be one of the most important decision that I make in moving my life in a more permanently positive direction. This time I did not make the choice lightly. In this series of posts I will fully describe the process that I used to find my therapist, and explain why I think it might work for you too.

You can read the other parts of this post first, if you haven’t already:

  • Part 1 – Outlines the different treatment options for PTSD and general research resources to assist in finding a good therapist or counselor.
  • Part 2 – A list of factors to consider when choosing your therapist.

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My Monster’s Step-by-Step Guide to Finding an Awesome Therapist

After doing a good amount of research and reading a lot of articles on how to find a good therapist, I have gathered up a good amount of notes from my main research resources. I have taken these notes and organized them into a cohesive step-by-step action plan that you can use to attempt to find an awesome therapist, because let’s be honest – “good” just isn’t good enough here.

  1. Treatment Type – Decide on the main issue(s) you are seeking treatment for – try to keep the list to three main issues or less. For me it was simple – PTSD.
  2. Ask for References – Seek out family and friends who have sought treatment for a similar condition and treat them as a great resource. Ask them if they have any recommendations of specific counselors you can research further. You might also consider asking them if they are comfortable answering any questions that you may have about the process.
  3. Decide on a Provider Type – If you haven’t already, start to get a general sense of what type of provider you are looking for, just as a starting point. I wouldn’t be too strict on this — really you are looking for a person who has experience with your issues and that you feel has potential, regardless of their title. Read How to Find a Therapist from WebMD from the first post in this series for a full explanation of each title. There are many types of service providers, such as:
    • Social workers
    • Counselors and Therapists
    • Psychologists
    • Psychiatrists
    • And a slew of alternative providers that can be used in conjunction with the above, such as: acupuncturists, chiropractors, fitness instructors, herbalists, homeopathic practitioners, hypnotists, life coaches, massage therapists, physicians, and yoga instructors.
  4. Create a Potentials List – To compile this list, here are a few ideas:
    • On the top of the list put any referrals you may have received from family and friends.
    • Research available therapists in your area using a search engine, such as Google, or your local telephone book. I prefer the Internet because there are usually more details available. Use keywords for your search: “My Issue” + Treatment/Therapists/Counselors + “My City and State” would make a great starting place. So examples that you could input into your search engine: “PTSD Treatment in My City”, “PTSD Therapists in My City”, or “PTSD Counselors in My City”, you get the gist.
    • Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist tool – This is an invaluable resource that I personally relied on heavily to locate my current therapist. I highly recommend using it. It can help you find a provider in your area based on: issues, sexuality, age, religion, gender and insurance accepted. Try not to be influenced by the photos. Other similar tools to the one above that I have not personally used:
    • At this step in the process you are not trying to assess the therapists that you find. You are only creating a simple list of providers who have experience treating your specific issue and are within about 60 miles.
  5. Basic Online Research – Now you may have a large list of potential providers, and it’s time to start narrowing it down based on your personal list of factors to consider from the previous post. Try not to rule anyone out based on just ONE factor unless it is one you have assigned a high number too.
    • Have a goal of narrowing your list down to about 5-10 strong prospects that look “good on paper”. If you are in a more isolated area, you may have fewer choices and that’s fine – they are still choices.
  6. Telephone Interviews – Most of the providers on your list will be amicable to setting up a 20 minute telephone meeting with you for free, just ask. During this time you will want to get answers to any questions you could not answer during your online research. You are further assessing if the provider is in line with your personal list of factors.
    • Your goal is to further narrow down your list to at most 5 potential providers.
    • Make notes about each conversation and the providers answers so you can reference it later. Also make note of anything your gut tells you during the call.
    • Some providers will not be open to a quick telephone interview so you will have to set an initial appointment with these providers instead. Many offer a free 30 minute introductory session if you ask and explain you are conducting interviews to find a potential therapist.
  7. First Session Interviews – Now that you have a very strong list of 3-5 potential providers, you will want to set up an initial meeting with each. As mentioned above, many will extend a free 30-60 minute session if you ask. For some you will have to pay full price – the way I look at this is I would rather pay for one session and make an informed, educated decision than rule anyone out because they didn’t offer a free intro OR decide on someone without first getting a really good sense of if they could help me or not. The next post in this series will cover this process in detail.
  8. Final Decision – Now that you have gathered all of your research coming to a final decision will probably be easy. Weigh your options against your list of factors and questions and decide which provider you feel will best be able to help you facilitate change for the future and help you to heal from your past. Don’t forget to check in with your gut.
  9. Continued Evaluation – It is important to evaluate the process at various points to assess if the treatment is working for you. After continued therapy you should start to see positive changes in your life such as improved relationships, better mood/less depression and stress, and a general decrease in other associated symptoms. You may not see this change at first, in fact things may at first seem worse, but with time you should expect improvement.

In the next post I will detail how to interview potential providers and share my personal interview questionnaire that you can use during interviews. Also lots of tips about what I learned about PTSD therapy options during my own process.

My Monster Has A Name… actually many. This blog is a safe place for me to share my healing journey from childhood abuse. The topics covered are at times controversial, offensive, horrific, and hopefully sometimes inspiring. Thank you for sharing in my journey.