If you’re here, you’ve probably read the first part of the “A New Year, A Well You” series and have decided to seek professional mental health services. If you haven’t read the post, I’m glad you’re here anyway. Welcome!
I’m here to provide some guidance to those who have finally decided to take the leap of seeking a deeper level of support and are not sure what to do next.
Determine What You’re Seeking Therapy For.
You should be able to communicate to a provider you’re reason for seeking services. Has your mood been low lately, are you struggling through a break up/infidelity?, family conflict, have you recently lost a loved one? Issues regarding your sexuality? Are you looking for ways to strengthen your marriage or relationship, have you been feeling stressed lately? Experiencing thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself or someone else? It’s important to be able to identify as best as you can, the challenge that you’re facing in order to be able to locate someone who specializes in what you have been struggling with. Even if you can only identify that as “I don’t know, I just feel off.” A therapist will help you get to the root of what it is you’re feeling and what is causing that feeling.
What Characteristics Do You Want Your Therapist/Counselor to Possess?
What important traits should your therapist possess? It’s important to think about this as you’ll need to narrow your search down later below. Do you prefer to see someone who has a a spiritual background? A female? A male? Someone of color? Someone close to your age? Someone older than yourself? Someone who is available weeknights, weekday mornings? Saturday’s? Some of these, and others are questions you can ask your prospective provider during that initial phone call in order to make sure they are a good fit for your individual needs.
Where Do I Locate A Therapist?
There are many places you can locate a licensed mental health provider.
- PsychologyToday is a great resource that you can use to locate a licensed mental health professional in your area. You’ll be able to narrow down providers based on your location, insurance provider, or whether they accept cash payment, and gender preference. You’ll also be able to narrow the list of providers down to those that specialize in working with individuals who are seeking specific support related to the issues you previously identified. The great thing about this resource is being able to preview a photo of your prospective provider prior to arriving to your first appointment. This helps with relieving some of the anticipatory anxiety of who this stranger you’ll be meeting with to discuss your personal life is, and is helpful in the sense that you can narrow down to providers who look like you in terms of race, if that is important to you.
- Therapy For Black Girls provides a list of providers of color based on your location.
- Your Employer’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Many companies provide their employees FREE, LIMITED mental health services through their EAP program. This program usually provides you with an of average 6 sessions with a provider that is of no cost to you. Contact your company’s benefits department to determine if this is available to you and how you can be linked to such services. I know the thought of going through your employer to be linked with counseling services seems worrisome. Don’t worry, the providers are bound by ethical guidelines to maintain your confidentiality and most companies use and contract with outside providers that aren’t even tied to your company that you could likely find on Psychology Today on your own. To my knowledge, military personnel are also offered a certain number of free counseling services for themselves and their families.
- Your Church
Some churches offers no or low cost service to their church members. Contact your church community to discuss if this is available and how you can take advantage of such services.
- Your College Campus
Many universities offer on-campus counseling services. Check out your schools website to determine if this is available to you and how you can utilize these services.
Should I see a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker/Licensed Clinical Social Worker(LICSW/LCSW), or a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)?
All of the professionals listed above are trained, licensed and have met the necessary requirements to provide appropriate mental health counseling services. Please note that a Psychiatrist is someone whom you would be seeing additionally for a psychiatric medication evaluation. All of these titles have obtained a minimum of a Master’s Degree in counseling, psychology, or social work. One factor that separates these providers is the licensing requirements, and specific trainings obtained by the providers. Once again, all are qualified to provide you with quality mental health services and are bound by ethical principles in accordance to their licensing boards.
Once you have identified your needs and where you can locate a therapist using the information I’ve provided above, I encourage you to compile a list of at least 3-5 providers if you can. Give them a call or email! Let them know you’re interested in seeking services with them and would like to know if they are currently taking new clients (hence the reason to have a few more options in case your preferred provider is booked out for a while.)
I’m proud of you for taking this first step to a New, and Well You. Be sure to follow the blog to be updated with the release of the last post in this series: “Preparing For Your First Therapy Appointment.”