Making the choice to seek help can be a difficult decision. However, trying to find the right therapist in New York City can make this process even more stressful. Finding the right person who understands your struggles, who is relatable, knowledgeable, educated and experienced, who is financially affordable and available to see new clients can seem like a daunting task.
Below are some suggestions that can help navigate this new territory and make the search for psychotherapy successful.
Sources for Finding a Therapist
Ask friends and family members about therapists that they know or have worked with in the past. Friends and family probably know you well and sometimes are very aware of the issues you are struggling with. They can prove to be a good source of information and they are easily accessible. Taking it one step further, it may be helpful to ask a friend or family member to ask their therapists for names of other therapists that they know and have worked with.
Use your workplace Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for referrals.
Many corporations in New York City provide EAP services to their employees. EAPs usually provide on-the-phone or in-person support and short-term counseling to employees free of charge. They are also connected to a network of therapists with many different areas of specialty and can refer employees out to them for longer term treatment.
Use your insurance company. If you have a health insurance plan that contains mental health benefits, your insurance company’s website will have a list of mental health providers on their panel.
Use the Internet. Psychology Today, for example, has an exhaustive listing of most psychotherapists by location and specialty. When searching in NYC, you can filter your search by zip code or neighborhood. You can also read a short blurb from the therapists explaining their education, training and treatment philosophy.
Use schools or universities for referrals. Plenty of universities are located in Manhattan that may have counseling centers. If you have children, their schools most likely have a counseling or guidance office. School guidance counselors or counselors based in college counseling centers should be able to provide you with names of clinicians by location and specialty. If you are an alum or faculty, the college counseling center will be able to put you in touch with knowledgeable therapists as well.
Ask a trusted professional that you already know. Primary care physicians, nurses, midwives, acupuncturists, naturopathic doctors, massage therapists may have psychotherapists in their network and could refer you to the right person.
Criteria for Choosing a Therapist
Psychotherapists can have different levels of education and training. Below are the three most common ones in NYC:
1) Psychologist – A psychologist can help you with a wide range of psychological issues. A psychologist is the best choice if you need to get any kind of psychological or neuropsychological testing done. Psychologists go through many years of training and may have specialty areas. They will also charge the highest fees.
2) Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) – A mental health counselor can help you with most mental health problems, relationship difficulties, and family issues. Because LMHC’s go through shorter training than psychologists, they usually charge a more affordable fee. They can only administer a limited number of psychological tests.
3) Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) – A social worker is similar to a mental health counselor in terms of expertise and fees, however, you will find many more social workers in NYC than mental health counselors.
Also, be aware of the most common types of therapy, and have a sense on what best suits your individual situation. The most common types of therapy are listed below with a short description of what they are.
1) Cognitive Therapy or Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) – the focus is on changing your negative thoughts and beliefs that may be interfering with achieving your goals in life
2) Behavior Therapy – the most important element of behavior therapy is to find ways to change your behavior so that you can lead a more value-based life, includes identifying negative behaviors/habits and learning new ways to solve problems and establish new, healthier and positive habits
3) Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – a specific type of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (CBT) that focuses on teaching you skills to manage emotions, improve relationships, and tolerate painful experiences.
4) Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) – focuses on improving interpersonal relationships and overall life satisfaction as a result
5) Psychodynamic Therapy – is the oldest type of therapy on this list. It often focuses on things that happened in the past and tries to help you process those experiences better so they do not have as much impact on the present. It can also help you understand some underlying reasons for certain behaviors or problems in your life. It usually takes longer (up to a year of more) to feel its benefits.
Make sure you get more than one name. Sometimes therapists do not have availability that aligns with yours or their price range may be out of your comfort zone. Also, it’s ok to “shop around” and set up initial sessions with more than one therapist. It is important to find the right clinician and nothing beats a meeting in person. Most therapists understand the importance of a good fit between client and clinician and are open to initial (sometimes free of charge) consultation before committing to treatment together.
Once you have a few names, do a Google search. See if any of them have websites, Psychology Today or Google+ profiles, or evaluations on Yelp or Healthgrades.com. If you get a strong reaction while reading a provider’s website or evaluations, listen to it. It is ok to be picky and trust your gut.
Contacting Your Prospective Therapists
When you have a shortlist of therapists, call each of them. This call is important for two reasons:
1) to ask any questions that you may have and
2) notice how you feel talking to this person.
Talk to your prospective therapists about these topics:
What level of education and degrees have they earned? -- make sure the therapist has a graduate or doctoral level degree
Do they have a license? – if the answer is yes, look up the therapist’s license # online (on the state licensing board’s website) and verify that it is current and whether there are any infractions associated with it
Specialty – most therapists in NYC will be able to help with a range of mental health issues including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, etc. However, if you need someone with specialized training and experience, you should be able to find them easily in NYC as well. The most common specialties are substance abuse, child therapy, couple therapy, anger management, OCD, eating disorders, etc.
Experience with your particular issues - you may not care whether a clinician has personally experienced your issue. But you may believe it will be easier to share with someone who has struggled and perhaps effectively coped with a similar life circumstance or diagnosis.
Personal therapy – some clinicians believe that a therapist who has not been in therapy may be at a disadvantage. We are not aware of any scientific studies that provide evidence to support the advantages or disadvantages of this. It could be a useful question to ask the therapist why or why not he/she thinks it is important or irrelevant for a clinician to have been a pscyhotherapy client. How open and how thoughtful the explanation can help you guage whether or not this is someone with whom you would like to work.
Theoretical orientation – ask questions about what would happen in sessions, how his/her particular orientation would be helpful in your case, what are the expected outcomes, etc...
Insurance participation and fees – many therapists do not participate on insurance panels, but offer sliding scale fees (the fee is flexible depending on your financial situation, time of day, etc.) and if your insurance plan offers out-of-network benefits for mental health services, you will get partially reimbursed for therapy sessions
Own recovery – some people find it important to know whether the clinician has suffered/recovered from mental health problems of their own. This is not a necessary prerequisite for someone to be an effective therapist, but is a matter of personal preference from the client’s point of view. A recent study shows that clients with eating disorders or grief were more likely to call a therapist who has gone through those same experiences personally, while those with depression, anxiety, alcohol/substance use and relationships problems were deterred from making the call if they found out the same (Pipes, Randolph, & Bvunzawabaya, 2013).
Notice how you feel during the call. What kinds of thoughts and feelings come up? Do you think you can trust this person? Do they seem knowledgeable and a good fit personality-wise? Did they answer all of your questions in a satisfying manner? Trust your judgment on this. If it doesn’t feel right, find another therapist.
What To Do After You Have Chosen Your Therapist
1) Call to make an appointment.
2) If the therapist sends you any paperwork ahead of time – fill them out. This way you won’t have to spend time on it during your first session.
3) Check with your insurance carrier and find out about coverage, reimbursement and whether you need an authorization to start treatment.
4) If you feel nervous before your first session, it is completely normal. The therapist anticipates different reactions in people and will be able to help you through it.
5) Notice how you feel during an in-person meeting. How does it feel to talk to this person? Do you feel heard and understood? How do you like the therapist’s energy and warmth (or lack thereof). It is ok to be upfront with the therapist about what you are looking for and if you find that he/she is not the right fit, you do not need to come back. With that said, sometimes it takes time to decide if the particular therapist is the right one for you. Take your time, give it a few sessions. Remember, just because the therapist is asking you many questions, does not mean that you shouldn’t get a chance to ask yours.
What to Expect in Therapy
1) Therapy is hard work. It takes time and effort on both the client’s and the therapist’s part. A strong therapeutic alliance will facilitate this process and make it more meaningful. Do not expect to be “cured” or “fixed” just by showing up. But with a high level of motivation and an effective therapist, improvement can be achievable. And in New York, there are plenty of options, so be sure you are confident you have found the right partner for this work.
2) Although therapy is often beneficial, sometimes it can make you feel a bit worse in the beginning. You could experience strong emotions and negative feelings as you work through difficult issues. This is completely normal. Make sure to discuss it with your therapist, who will help you get through it.
3) There is no time limit on therapy. Some people can experience improvement in as fast as a few weeks, for some people it may take much longer. Generally speaking, in CBT we recommend at least 12 weeks of sessions to see progress.
4) If you have been seeing a therapist for a few months and you have not experienced any improvement, it may be time to work with someone else.
If you have more questions on how to find a therapist in New York City, or are interested in learning more about Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), feel free to call New York Behavioral Health at 646-599-3498 or fill our Contact Form. We will be happy to help you in your search to find a therapist in Manhattan.