New York City is full of amazing talent, especially with regard to mental health professionals. This abundance of superb psychologists, social workers and mental health counselors works for and against you when you’re trying to find the right therapist who fits your needs.
The task of matching your health insurance plan with psychotherapists who are actually in your insurance network AND who have openings in their schedule at a convenient time AND who seem to closely fit the description of what you think you need can feel nearly impossible.
Here are some tips for finding the perfect therapist for your current emotional needs. This post aims to make your search a bit easier, especially if you’re willing to invest in paying out of pocket for the better psychologists:
FINDING A GEM OF A NEW YORK CITY THERAPIST AMONG THE MASSES
1. Do your due diligence in the form of online research.
Don’t just stop at psychologytoday.com. Push further. What does a potential therapist’s website say? Do you get a good feeling when you see a picture of the therapist? As some older generations might say, “Is it a face you can trust?” I can’t say enough about this. Go with your gut reaction. Let’s build on this...
2. Learn what else a therapist is about.
Look beyond the therapist’s basic profile and marketing. Does a counselor’s online presence give you any indication of what he or she is involved in beyond what’s expected? Most therapists claim to be experts in helping people with depression, anxiety and relationships. Can you find any evidence to support the therapist’s claim that he or she is an expert on a given subject matter? Do they blog about a topic in line with their expertise?
TO EMAIL OR CALL...MAKING CONTACT
3. Be strategic with how you reach out to psychotherapists.
Most millennials avoid calling therapists. They prefer to email. I think this is a big mistake because you get so much valuable information from a call to a potential counselor. Allow yourself to make an exception. Pay attention to the vibe you get on the phone. Is the therapist patient with you? Rushing you? Does the conversation feel safe?
4. Ask one or two questions pertaining to what you want to work on.
Get a sense of the therapist’s perspective on the topics that you plan to talk about. It can be one quick and simple question. For example, if you’re coming for help with social anxiety, you can ask, “What would your cognitive behavioral approach to social anxiety look like?” Or “What would you say is your specialty?” Listen for the way he or she thinks and talks about therapy. Do they sound like someone you can be totally vulnerable with?
USING THE INITIAL CONSULTATION TO SPOT A ROCKSTAR THERAPIST
5. You are really the interviewer in the first session.
As much as the first session is about finding relief from emotional suffering, it’s also a beautiful opportunity for you to interview your therapist to see if it’s the right fit. Unless you trust your instincts that you’ve found “the one,” I recommend trying out two or three therapists to see who feels the most helpful. Vary the potential therapists by some quality, such as gender, age theoretical orientation or type of clinician. Obviously, there are also practical elements that can prohibit you from trying out multiple therapists, such as financial constraints and having limited hours to schedule an appointment. If you’re trying to find an in-network psychologist in Manhattan, I’m guessing you’ll have to skip #5 because there probably won’t be too many options.
See how each therapists guides the discussion. Do they let you get lost in details? Does it seem like they’re listening? Do they seem mechanical? Did they let you do all of the talking? (Not ideal in my book.) Do they follow a highly structured approach? Are they who they the type of therapist as advertised on the internet?
See how the therapist relates to goal setting. Be sure to talk about goals if the therapist doesn’t ask about them. The reason this is so important is because a more psychodynamic, traditional therapist probably won’t want to talk about goals as much as a cognitive-behavioral psychologist. I believe a discussion about goals is essential in the first session. You get so much information about how structured the therapist is and the extent to which the therapist views therapy as an open-ended, never-ending process or a realistic, solution-focused, collaborative endeavor. Without goals you’ll eventually find yourself wandering with your words through a wasteful, therapeutic wasteland. Goals keep you and the therapist accountable.
If you walk out of the first session feeling significantly more hopeful and excited for the therapeutic process, then you know you’ve either found a gem of a therapist and/or you made a smart decision to seek help and the timing is right.
Feel free to add comments or questions. I love feedback.
Dr. Gregory Kushnick is a licensed psychologist with a private practice in Manhattan’s Chelsea and FiDi neighborhoods. He strives to provide the most actionable tips on the web and in person for relieving emotional distress. He has successfully treated hundreds of people who struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, panic, addiction, anger and relationship issues. Dr. Greg has written for several online publications, including Techealthiest, which is a his own unique website dedicated to helping readers find health in technology.