Tips For Finding a Therapist

I wrote a quick guide on my professional site to who-does-what (in Ontario, at least) when it comes to providing psychotherapy. It’s complicated, as I’ve commented here before. It can also be political, as there can be professional viewpoints that don’t align. I would like nothing more than for psychotherapy to be covered by OHIP (well it is, but only a) in the evidently magic hands of a Psychiatrist, which is funny because less and less Psychiatrists are providing psychotherapy, or b) a recently announced provincial pilot program, but only CBT is allowed). I’d like all licensed professionals such as myself to be covered because I understand the human value of what talk therapy can do for people who are seeking help and perspective.

Here are some tips for people who are looking for a therapist:

  1. “Fit” is everything: no matter how conveniently a therapist is located to your place of work, no matter how reasonably priced they may be, no matter how many initials they have after their name or what hallowed “evidence based” therapy they practice, it all takes second place to fit. What I mean by “fit” might be a little different than how it might sound to you: a sense of comfort (but maybe, for some of us, not too comfortable because we’re not going to therapy to be lulled but rather to learn and sometimes learning can be uncomfortable), a sense of the who-we-are being intrinsically acknowledged (i.e. not feeling as if they would say exactly the same things to the next person who sits on their couch). Overall, it’s the sense that the shrink “gets” us. Now, as I type this I’m thinking of all the reasons someone may not want this sort of “fit.” Maybe we want someone who reminds us, less than consciously, of our high school Phys Ed instructor, you know, the guy who you never not saw wearing sweats and a polished whistle dangling from his neck, who will call us on our bullshit. Maybe we’re not comfortable making ourselves vulnerable with the opposite sex, but nonetheless we want to push ourselves out of our comfort zone for reasons of growth. People are really complex. Ultimately, the better understood we feel by the person working with us, the more easily we stand to open up.
  2. Sliding scale. Not everyone can afford regular weekly sessions with a therapist (Registered Psychotherapists are generally cheaper than Psychologists, but, even then, cheap is relative), so look to see on their website if they offer a sliding scale for clients who are financially challenged. If you don’t see it listed it doesn’t mean that they don’t offer sliding scale, rather it might just be something they don’t advertise, that you may need to inquire about before your first session. I get the fact that some people find asking for things like this to be stressful. Consider it part of your growth.
  3. Therapists-in-training. Another option, for those who are looking either for the right fit or are concerned about the financial burden, is to check training institutes to see whether they have a program where therapists-in-training might be matched with prospective clients. Not everyone is keen on working with a therapist who doesn’t necessarily have all the practical experience in the world, however the price is often right. I’ll also note that, just because someone is in-training doesn’t mean they lack life experience, if you get my drift.
  4. Has your therapist ever been in therapy? I personally don’t understand how anyone can practice long or short-term psychotherapy without ever having been in psychotherapy themselves, and while the regulating college in Ontario encourages “safe and effective use of self” (or SEUS), there are still therapists seeing clients (Psychiatrists, Psychologists, and Registered Psychotherapists) who haven’t seen the inside of a therapist’s office that doesn’t have their name on it. So, when you’re shopping around, feel free to ask whether they have been in individual psychotherapy, either as part of their training or by personal choice (for the record, I have been in therapy in both contexts).