Finding a Therapist
It’s not easy these days to get into a therapist’s case load; suddenly we are all slammed. The reasons for this are many but knowing the reasons doesn’t help you get in: what will?
When you contact a therapist, tell them your name and what you want to work on. Maybe you already know this, but you would be surprised how many emails or calls I get from someone who says something along the lines of “do you have any openings?” In some cases they don’t even say what their name is. In those cases, I almost always say no, I don’t have any openings. Even if I do have an opening (which has not been the case for several months), I’m much more likely to give it to someone who says “hi, my name is ______, I’m working on ______ (or seeking therapy for ______), I looked at your website and think we would be a good match. I’m willing to go on a waiting list if necessary. I’d love to talk with you to see if we are a good fit!” Good rapport between therapist and client yields the best outcome for all concerned; it’s good when a client is aware of that and expresses that they want it to be a good match as well.
If you are looking for a therapist, treat it like you are hiring someone to do some work for you, like perhaps a contractor for your house, or maybe a mechanic. Find out what you can about the therapist (google their name and read about their presence on the web). Do they do they kind of work you want to have done? Do people like their work? Do they seem professional and in alignment with your world view? If you have been referred by someone, let the therapist know that in your initial contact. Ask your friends who they are seeing and don’t be afraid to leave a message even if the outgoing message says they are full (eg: “hi, my name is ____ I understand that you are currently full, but so-n-so recommended me and I think we would be a good match because I see you are an attachment-based therapist and I’m working on attachment issues. If I could be put on your waiting list, I’d love to do a consult with you”). If you are in crisis, don’t be afraid to say so (really, do be honest from the get-go, doing anything else is highly counter-productive) but if you can wait before starting therapy, that is probably going to be in your favor, most therapists I know are carrying wait lists.
Potential clients can learn a lot from a potential therapist by asking what their theoretical orientation is, and what modalities they use. In plain English, a therapist’s theoretical orientation is the like the scaffolding of what they use to approach the work. My theoretical orientation includes attachment theory, and interpersonal neurobiology, with a feminist lens: Interpersonal neurobiology is a phrase coined by Dan Siegel, it refers to the ways our minds, brains and relationships interrelate and help us make sense of the world; it includes the tenants of attachment theory, which helps us understand how our relationships with others shapes the way we see the world. One of the basic tenets of feminist theory is standpoint theory: the way you look at the environment, and the place you look at it from fundamentally matters. My modalities include mindfulness, Internal Family Systems (a non-pathologizing parts work), with a body based approach. It’s good to keep in mind that what your potential therapist says is less important than how you feel about the interaction while you are talking. The research is clear: if you have good rapport with your therapist the outcomes are likely to be better. The research is also clear that if you are likely to feel better about your connection with your practitioner if you are aligned along cultural/ethnic/sexuality/gender lines.
If you can’t find a therapist right away, check out Dan Siegel’s work (Mindsight; Aware; Parenting From The Inside Out); Cheri Huber’s book There Is Nothing Wrong With You; Tara Brach (Radical Acceptance and other works, she also has a strong web presence); Bruce Perry’s videos on regulation on Neurosequential Network (videos under the COVID 19 tab); or the handouts you can access on this website.
Therapy is not the be all and end all: time in nature, developing strong friend/community support, pointing yourself toward your values, developing a spiritual practice (if you are spiritually oriented), and meditation or other contemplative practices can go a long way to supporting your growth as a human. However, therapy can really help, if you find the right match. Hopefully this blog will help you get the therapist you need!