Are you thinking about seeing a therapist for your anxiety?
Then you know that choosing a therapist can seem daunting. The idea of opening up to a complete stranger about the problems you’re having can feel uncomfortable, especially if you are already feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
So what can you do? You’ve probably already tried to manage your anxiety on your own and your usual way of dealing with things just isn't enough. You know therapy is a good option for treating anxiety but you want to make an informed choice about the therapist you see.
Whether you’ve already gotten a couple of recommendations or referrals or you’re starting from scratch, this post will give you some helpful tips for choosing an anxiety therapist so that you can get the appropriate support and tools needed to start managing your anxiety more effectively.
If you are looking for an anxiety therapist, here are 5 tips to help you choose someone who can help you find the relief you are looking for:
1. Do online research. Most therapists, clinics, and therapy centers have a website these days and if they don’t have a website they most likely have an online profile on one of the many therapist directories out there.
If someone you know or your insurance company gave you some referrals, look them up. If you don’t have anyone specific in mind, you can simply do a search for “anxiety therapist” or if you have a specific anxiety disorder or type of treatment you are interested in, you can specify that.
Read through some of the websites or profiles that show up. You can start to get a sense of a therapist’s personality and style by the way they present themselves and their work. Do they seem to understand what you’re going through? Do they clearly describe who they work with and how they work? Do you like what they have to say?
Often there are photos of the therapist and sometimes their office, which can also give you a preview of who you’ll be meeting with and what the environment is like. This can be particularly helpful when you’re feeling anxious about going into unfamiliar territory in that it helps you orient yourself and you’ll have a better sense of what to expect.
2. Find out what their specialties are. Anxiety is so common that most therapists have training and experience working with anxiety and will list anxiety as an issue that they work with. However, anxiety may not necessarily be their specialty or it may be that they specialize in working with a particular type of anxiety that may not be a match for what you are dealing with. This is why reading through the profile or website or asking the therapist directly is advised.
**Note: You may not necessarily need an “anxiety specialist” to get help with your anxiety - plenty of therapists who aren’t specialists help people with anxiety every day - but if you know that’s what you’re looking for, it will help narrow down your search.**
3. Look for a good fit. This is the most important thing to look for with any therapist. You will have better outcomes if you find a therapist who is a good match for your needs, who you trust and respect, and who you feel comfortable communicating with.
As I mentioned previously, you can start to get a sense of a therapist’s personality and style from their website or profile but the best way to know whether a therapist is a good fit is to talk with them.
Notice how feel when you are talking with them. Do you feel understood? Is the person easy to talk to? Do you feel comfortable enough to share what you’re dealing with? Did anything rub you the wrong way? Do you feel supported?
You don’t necessarily want to rush to judgment if you don’t feel an instant connection with the person because making a good connection can take time, but it’s important to listen to your intuition if you get a strong feeling about someone.
4. Make time for a phone consultation. Most therapists offer an initial phone consultation and many will require a phone conversation before you can schedule an appointment. You might feel nervous about making the phone call and would rather just show up for an appointment, but I strongly recommend having a phone conversation first.
During the call, you’ll be asked to give an overview of your current situation and what you would like help with, and it’s also an opportunity to get to know the therapist a little bit and ask questions: have they ever worked with someone with similar issues to you?, how do they work with anxiety?, what are their specialties?, how can they help?, what are their fees?, availability?, etc.
Also, know that you don’t have to commit to an appointment right away. If you need more time to think about it or if you’re unsure, just let the therapist know that you are not ready to schedule an appointment yet, but that you’ll be in touch again if you decide to move forward.
**Note: Some therapists now offer online booking for phone consultations. This allows you to schedule a time for the 15-20 minute call which saves you the hassle of phone tag and allows you time to prepare yourself before the call. If a therapist doesn’t have this option, you can simply call or send them an email asking if you can schedule a time for a phone call.**
5. Find out how they work and how they treat anxiety. There are a number of different styles of therapy and different treatments for anxiety which are effective – cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), somatic therapies, EMDR, mindfulness-based therapy, just to name a few.
I’m not going to promote one specific form of treatment over another right now because what works for some people doesn’t work for everyone and I think what is often most effective is the type of therapy that resonates with you or fits your specific needs and personality.
You can do some research about different treatments but it's helpful to simply ask the therapist to explain how they work, what you can expect in a session, and what kinds of results you can expect. Does their approach make sense to you and are you willing to try it?
You might feel nervous as you think about reaching out to a therapist for the first time and it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in that feeling. It’s vulnerable to open up to someone new and most people feel nervous at first, but not getting help and continuing to struggle with anxiety can be far worse.
Now that you know how to go about choosing an anxiety therapist, you’re ready to begin your search and find someone who is a good match for you and your specific needs.
If you are interested in learning more about how I work with anxiety click here.
If you would like to schedule a phone consultation click here or send me an email.
Post written by Melanie Lopes, MFT.