How to find a therapist (in 5 easy steps)
1. Call your insurance company
Call the phone number on the back of your insurance card to ask about your mental health benefits. Ask what your deductible and co-pay will be (both in and out of network). Then, ask if they can send you a list of providers that are "in-network". Make sure to also ask if you need a referral or pre-authorization prior to beginning services.
Keep in mind that any insurance reimbursement, in or out of network, will require that your therapist give you a mental health diagnosis. If this makes you uncomfortable, you can pay out of pocket, or discuss with your PCP or therapist what the impact of a diagnosis might be in your medical records.
2. Go to psychologytoday.com or goodtherapy.org
While on these websites, you can filter therapists by zip code, presenting issue, gender, specialty, insurance networks, and other factors. You can go to their websites or call/email them directly from the filtered list. You can then cross reference this list with the list you received from your insurance company.
If you do not have or do not plan to go through insurance, yet cannot afford the $100+ standard rate for counseling in Seattle, you might try a website for sliding scale providers, like openpathcollective.org. This site has a list of quality clinicians who are committed to providing services at a substantially reduced rate.
3. Email 3-5 therapists
I often tell people that finding a therapist is kind of like dating. You can only tell so much by looking at a photo and reading their profile. Then, there's the fact that many therapists may have a profile online but are not currently accepting new clients. By sending an email, you will save yourself the tasks of leaving voicemail messages and playing phone tag back and forth with multiple therapists. Also, you can weed out by speed of return contact. And, if you don't want to go through insurance (or you can afford not to), you can say that in your email.
So, I recommend sending a stock email to 3-5 potential therapists with the following information: available days/times to meet, general issue to address, frequency of services desired (if known), your insurance company, if going through insurance, and what type of therapy you might want - couples, family, individual, CBT, DBT, etc.
Here’s a template for an initial email:
I am currently looking to start counseling through my ________ insurance (for example: Regence). I have availability to see a therapist on _______ (for example: Thursdays before 10am or after 3pm). I would like to see someone to work on _______ (for example: my depression and outbursts of anger). I am not sure whether or not it might be a good idea to also do couples work with my partner. Please let me know if you would have availability to see me _______ (for example: weekly or every other week). And, if so, what would be next steps to see if you are a good fit.
4. Schedule a free phone consultation
Most therapists offer a free phone consultation, if not a free in-person consultation. I absolutely recommend taking advantage of this. At that point, you can ask more specific questions about your situation and the therapist's experience and how it might be relevant to you. There are a number of resources online to help you with the questions you might ask a new therapist, like this one: https://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/questions-everyone-should-ask-their-therapist/
5. Have a face-to-face visit with more than one therapist
Back to the dating analogy... Most people who try online dating would have at least one date with more than one person, right? Yet, when it comes to therapy, we only meet with one person and continue for weeks or months, sometimes, before we wonder whether they are the right fit.
I suggest having one in-person session with more than one person to see what feels best to you. Different therapists can feel very different, so don't be afraid to shop around to find the best fit.
Once you pick a therapist, keep assessing how its going and talk with your therapist if things aren’t going the way you would like. The best therapy involves feedback and adjustments as needed.