How to find the right match for you … in a therapist
Posted: February 13, 2023 | Word Count: 797
According to a recent Forbes Health poll, improving mental health was cited as one of the top New Year’s resolutions for 2023. For those seeking a mental healthcare provider, finding the right one can feel much like dating — overwhelming to find someone who shares the same values, meets your needs, and with whom you feel a connection. However, finding an attentive, caring and knowledgeable therapist can pay dividends on your mental well-being.
“Working with a provider with whom you have a strong and trusting relationship can have a significant impact on the success of mental health treatment. That’s why it’s important to find someone who aligns with your needs and makes you feel comfortable and heard so you can make progress in your mental health journey,” notes Dr. Shakira Espada-Campos, associate chief of behavioral health at virtual care provider MDLIVE.
While finding the right provider can seem daunting, according to Dr. Espada-Campos, there are a few simple things to keep in mind that can help you find the right match:
1. Understand your needs first
When it comes to your initial search, look for a provider that meets your basic needs. First, determine whether you need a psychiatrist or therapist. While psychiatrists and therapists can provide treatment for many of the same issues, psychiatrists are doctors who can diagnose psychiatric conditions and prescribe medication, while therapists are licensed providers who can assess and support emotional or behavioral health concerns through talk therapy. Once you know the type of professional you’re looking for, do some digging into what a potential provider offers. Does their experience and specialty areas meet your needs? Do they offer night and weekend appointments? Doing the research upfront to determine compatibility at the base level will help minimize unexpected issues later.
2. Location doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker
Virtual care has become an increasingly popular option for mental health services, as it provides private and convenient access to quality care in a timely manner. In fact, many health plans and employers have expanded benefits to cover virtual mental healthcare services. This has allowed for the “dating” pool to expand, meaning it’s easier than ever to find a provider that fits your needs — even if they’re in a different zip code. Building an ongoing relationship with a virtual therapist or psychiatrist is just as meaningful as it would be with an in-person provider.
3. Dig deep on the first date
Once you’ve found a provider that meets your needs, the first visit can help illuminate further. Just like on a first date, you may be apprehensive of coming on too strong by asking a ton of questions, but doing so offers the perfect opportunity to see whether the therapist is a match for you both on and off paper, which can lead to a trusting and healthy relationship in the long run. Some questions that may help gauge your compatibility include: What is your training and background? Do you have experience with the issues I am facing? How can we work together to achieve my goals? What does a typical session look like?
4. Recognize when it’s time to move on
As with any relationship, the initial stage may be enjoyable, but then you start to get a nagging feeling that something isn’t working. The same can be said for working with a therapist. Sometimes, a provider isn’t the right fit; and that’s OK. If you find that sessions aren’t making you feel better generally, you’re not making progress with the goals you established together, or you feel they are not making adequate space for you, it might be time to find a different provider. No one should be forced to settle in a relationship, romantic or otherwise, if it doesn’t feel quite right.
5. Breaking up isn’t hard to do
There are many fish, er, mental health providers in the sea, so you shouldn’t feel pressured to stay with one simply because you chose them originally. For example, MDLIVE’s platform makes it easy for you to choose from an extensive list of licensed therapists and board-certified psychiatrists, schedule an appointment, and change your provider at any time if you feel it isn’t quite working out. When you do feel it’s time to cut ties with your therapist, it's important to be transparent — simply explain to your provider that you plan to end your treatment with them in your next session. This offers an opportunity to evaluate your work together and may also help you reflect on what you might need in a future provider.
Recognizing your wants and priorities in a mental healthcare provider can help make the process of finding the right therapist a bit more seamless.