Starting counseling can be an undeniably overwhelming task. Ever started the search, only to become confused, frustrated, or worried?
Read on for practical advice from 3 Evergreen Counseling therapists on finding the right therapist for you!
By Kristy gargano, LSW
with contributing authors:
heather hawthorne, ALMFT
chelsea solorzano, ALMFT
Find the Best Therapist for You!
Kristy Gargano, LSW
So you’ve decided you’re ready to enter the amazing yet foreign world of therapy (Yay, for you!!), and now it’s time to find a therapist. That’s great, except for the fact that you don’t know where to even begin. There are hundreds of therapists out there with all these letters next to their names, and how in the world are you supposed to navigate THAT?!? I feel your pain… That’s exactly how I feel when I go into a Target store. OK, where was I?… Ah yes, finding a therapist. A couple of my colleagues and I have put our heads together to gather the most important key factors that will hopefully make the process of finding a great therapist easier for you!
What Do Those Letters Stand For?
First off, what are those letters after the therapist’s names? Those little acronyms provide information as to what type of educational background we have and where we are at in our licensing and credentialing process. For example, the difference between an LPC and an LCPC is that the LCPC has practiced as an LPC for a certain number of hours, obtained clinical supervision and has taken and passed the clinical exam. Although this does typically mean the latter has more experience, both an LPC and an LCPC have completed a lot of education and internships to be able to provide (hopefully) great therapy to their clients. Below I have provided a quick break down of some of the more common licenses and their meanings in the state of Illinois.
LPC/LCPC: Licensed Professional Counselor/ Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor.
LSW/LCSW: Licensed Social Worker/Licensed Clinical Social Worker
AMFT/LMFT: Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists
CADC: Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor
Both psychologists and psychiatrists have an educational background on mental health disorders, but are limited in the area of counseling. M.D.’s are professional who have completed medical school and are prescribers of medication.
Of course, there are various other credentials therapists can obtain through education. The ones listed above are most common to the field of mental health. Ultimately, none of the above are better or worse than the others. They are simply different in how they approach various issues. Ultimately, you will want to look at the therapist’s specializations, experience, and bio to see if they would be a good fit for you, based on what you are seeking therapy for.
Navigating Insurance and fees
Heather Hawthorne, ALMFT
As you begin your search for a therapist, another consideration is insurance. This can feel complicated to figure out as not all therapists take the same insurance, some only do self pay, and some have sliding scale options. Where do you even start?
One way to go about it is to call your insurance company and ask for a list of in-network therapists in your area. This can help you narrow down options, or let you know if you might have a bigger co-pay if the therapist you are looking at is not in-network with your insurance.
Therapists often will list accepted insurances on their website to help with this process, or have accepted insurances listed on their Psychology Today profile (https://www.psychologytoday.com/).
Lastly, if you've identified a therapist that you'd like to work with, just ask them! Even if you are not in-network with a certain therapist, they can help you figure out what the cost would be to you. You can also talk with the therapist to see if there are any self-pay or sliding scale options. Many therapists have this as an option and it never hurts to ask!
The Importance of the Client-Therapist Relationship
Chelsea Solorzano, ALMFT
The relationship between client and therapist is an important part of the change process. Therefore, when finding a new therapist, it is important that you feel safe with your new therapist and as though you can build a trusting and honest relationship. A good therapist will both make you feel cared for and will also challenge you – this means they will hear your concerns but will also ask you to do the hard work of growing.
The specific way in which a therapist may foster this trusting relationship may vary, as there are many different types therapists with a variety of styles and areas of clinical focus. Similarly, each person seeking therapy has unique needs and backgrounds. This means that exactly what equals goodness of fit for each person will be somewhat subjective – and that you should pay attention to how you feel when talking with your new therapist. Overall, you should get a sense of being heard and understood, as this sense may give you an indication of whether trust may be developed over time.
Following are some questions you may find helpful as you reflect on the sense you get when talking with your therapist:
When you describe the concerns bringing you to therapy, do you feel as though the therapist is listening to your concerns? Do you feel as though they are also able to explain the initial steps of therapy?
Do you feel acknowledged, as though the therapist hears and understands your concerns? Do you also feel hopeful, as though the therapist can also support you in growing and changing?
How does the therapist respond when you ask them questions?
Does the therapist seem curious about you? Do you feel heard and seen?
Does the therapist feel like a real person to you, or do they simply nod and repeat themselves often?
If you are looking for a specific modality of therapy or for treatment for a specific issue, does the therapist work with these issues within the framework you expect? If not, are you interested in further discussing what work with this therapist might look like (if you feel you connect well with them), or would you prefer to look elsewhere?
Because therapy is intended to be a space of care, safety, trust, honesty and vulnerability, it’s important to find a therapist with whom you can connect. It’s OK to see a therapist and realize you aren’t a good fit (sometimes we realize it, too). We also encourage you to give therapy time, because changes don’t happen overnight. If you have questions during any point of the therapeutic process, please just ask us questions. Therapy is intended for you, however that may look for each person, and we want to make sure you have a say in how that goes.
If you’re ready to start the intake process for new clients, call evergreen counseling at 630-480-0060.
Kristy, Heather, and Chelsea can be reached at their individual extensions. Or fill out the “Get In Touch” form on our contact page and let our intake coordinator know you want to start counseling, get questions answered, and much more.
At Evergreen Counseling, we are passionate about helping clients find the best possible therapist for their needs, personality, and desired outcomes. Call or email us today!