The Questions to Ask when Finding a Therapist
Most people find themselves overwhelmed by the time they choose to begin therapy. The things they normally do to handle stress aren’t helping, so most people want to find someone to help as fast as possible.
But it’s important to realize that finding the right therapist is a deeply personal and vulnerable process. The right fit is one of the most critical components of therapy—if the relationship doesn’t feel safe and secure, it’s going to be very difficult to make progress. You never have to stay with a therapist if it isn’t going well (in fact, please find someone else if it isn’t going well). But some work on the front end can help you feel safer from the get-go.
One thing to take into consideration are the letters after a therapist’s name. The letters share with you something about the therapist’s education and how they learned to work with clients. The letters can be their degree (e.g. MSW, MA, MS, Ph.D.), their license (e.g. LP, LICSW, LPCC, LMFT, MD, LADC), or certifications they may have (usually a string of letters starting with a “C”). Although there is a lot of overlap in how therapists work with their clients, each of these pieces helps the therapist organize how they do their work.
Most therapists have a profile that talks about how they do their work—try reading it and see how it resonates with you. Do you get a sense of their personality? What are some of their professional interests and do they fit parts of your identity or some of the issues you may be wanting to explore in therapy? How do they communicate their beliefs and how they work with their clients?
One thing I heard from a wonderful professional was to make sure your therapist has training in working with a community you are a part of. She said, “Just because I’m a lesbian does not mean I am qualified to work with the lesbian community. I had to seek out training about the many issues lesbians can face; my lived experience gave me insight but it did not outright qualify me to do the work with the lesbian community.”
Don’t be afraid to call a therapist and ask questions about their training, specifically how it may help with some of your goals for therapy. Some things to ask:
- How do you work with your clients?
- Have you received any training in working with people who identify like I do?
- Do you have experience with the specific issues I’m looking to explore?
- Do you offer a free introductory session where we could see if we are a good fit?
We have some great resources in the Twin Cities for LGBTQ+ mental health. One place to start your search would be the LGBTQ+ Therapist Network web page (lgbttherapists.org). They have a search engine where you can input some terms, including your insurance provider if you’re using one, to find a therapist who might identify in ways similar to you, have specialized training, and/or is committed to social justice for LGBTQ+ people.
There are some great organizations that specialize in working with the LGBTQ+ community such as JustUs Health (justushealth.mn), Reclaim! (reclaim.care), Family Tree Clinic (familytreeclinic.org), Pride Institute (pride-institute.com), and Latitudes (meridianprograms.com/program/latitudes-lgbt). These organizations prioritize working with the LGBTQ+ community in their missions. Check out their websites to get a feel for their therapists and how they do their work. If these organizations are not the right fit, it will still give you some ideas of things to look for in your search for the right provider.
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Rick Laska is Director of Clinical Services for JustUs Health.