I recently shared some tips on how to choose a good anxiety treatment therapist. If you live in a large urban area, there are likely thousands of anxiety therapists. Winnowing your choices down to a manageable list is the first step.
Now, let’s talk about how to find a good anxiety therapist. It’s important to learn how to find good therapists by screening them to find one who’s qualified, safe, confidential, and trustworthy.
The Benefits of Finding a Good Therapist For Anxiety
I can honestly say that finding a good therapist has saved my life. That’s not an overstatement. I’ve gone through periods in the last 20 years where my depression, anxiety, and overall sense of despair was so intense I probably would have attempted suicide had it not been for my therapist. I’ve told him things I have never told (and probably will never tell) another human being. That kind of trust is a rare thing in this world, and I’ve taken a lot of strength from it.
The freedom I’ve gained from driving anxiety has made an enormous difference in my life, but I still struggle with other anxiety problems and depression on a daily basis. Regular therapy is still a foundation of my ongoing anxiety recovery treatment. It’s just a lot easier to drive to my appointments now. 😉
I’ve been pretty successful at finding good therapists to work with. Maybe it’s just luck, or maybe I have an intuitive sense of who’s a good fit and who isn’t. In any case, here’s some concrete steps you can to find a good therapist for anxiety yourself.
Finding a Good Therapist For Anxiety: Here’s How
- Call first — Start by calling each therapist on your list (see How to Choose a Good Anxiety Treatment Therapist). Most will not be immediately available by phone to non-clients, so leave a message explaining you want to speak with them about becoming a client. A good therapist will return your call within 24 hours and be willing to answer some questions over the phone. Anyone who doesn’t get back to you within 48 hours isn’t worth your time. Cross them off your list.
- Ask for a free consultation — Like everything else in this world, therapy is a commodity that people are less and less willing to give away free. But most good therapists still do a free, 30 minute consult for the first session, or at least do it for a reduced fee. I’ve found that therapists willing to do this are usually more interested in providing quality mental health care than in just making money, and are generally better therapists.
- Ask about sliding scale fees — Therapy is expensive; $125-$150 per session is not uncommon. Still, many therapists have a “sliding scale” fee structure where they see a certain percentage of clients at a reduced rate. Ask about this over the phone if you can, and definitely bring it up in the first consult/session.
- Check their availability — Finding the best therapist for anxiety in the world won’t do you much good if they can only see you once every other month. Some carry very heavy case loads and just aren’t very available. Make sure they’re available to see you often enough to provide adequate treatment. One session or more per week is common.
- Ask about their accessibility — Make sure their office is conveniently located and relatively easy to get to. This is particularly important if you struggle with driving phobia. Try to find a therapist whose office is nearby, or accessible via public transportation. If you do have to drive to get there, try to find someone who’s only a short drive away.
- Ask about their education & qualifications — This is also something you can do over the phone. Any competent therapist will be upfront about their education, number of years in practice, and the type of problems they have experience in treating. Anyone who’s cagey about sharing this information isn’t worth your time. Hang up and move on down your list. Look for someone who’s had formal training in psychotherapy to the level of at least a Master’s degree. Also look for someone who’s been in practice for a while, say, five years or more. It takes not only good education, but real world experience to become a good therapist for anxiety and phobia.
Other Things to Consider For Finding a Good Therapist For Anxiety
- Gender — You may feel more comfortable with a therapist of the same or the opposite gender. It really comes down to personal preference. I’ve worked with good male and good female therapists and have found great value in both. I am slightly more comfortable with male therapists.
- Office & environment — One of the marks of a good therapist is their ability to create a nurturing, safe physical environment for their clients. Make sure your therapist’s office feels comfortable to you and is a place you can relax and let your guard down.
- Personal comfort level — This is hard to quantify. I’ve seen a couple of therapists who were very qualified, very nice people, and very competent professionals. Even so, I never really felt relaxed around them and I didn’t know why. Perhaps it was a personality issue, but something about them made me uneasy. You may have a similar experience while working with a new therapist. It may take some time to figure out if they’re the right fit for you. You may prefer certain therapists over others with no rational explanation for why you feel that way. Just know that this is very normal, and it’s perfectly okay if you need to work with someone else to get your needs met. Therapy is about your feelings, not your therapist’s feelings. Feeling that a therapist is not a good fit doesn’t mean they’re not a good therapist, they just may not be right for you. Therapists are human beings, and come with a wide variety of styles, methodologies, and personality traits. No therapist on earth is going to be right for everyone.
I hope this helps you with how to find a good therapist for anxiety. You may need to try more than one therapist before you settle in, but my experience has been you’ll intuitively know when you’ve found “the right” person.