September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, this month is used as an opportunity to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health while providing hope and support for those who struggle with mental illness. According to the World Health Organization, every 40 seconds someone loses their life to suicide, (World Health Organization , Suicide Prevention 2022). Suicides can be prevented by helping those who struggle with mental illness and suicidal ideations through support and treatment.
Counseling has been proven to be an effective form of treatment for individuals who experience suicidal thoughts and/or self-injurious behaviors. According to Johns Hopkins Blooming School of Public Health, talk therapy has been found to reduce suicide rates in those who have previously attempted to take their own lives by 27%, (Suicide risk falls substantially after talk therapy. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health).
While therapy is an effective form of treatment, there are many barriers that individuals who reach out for help with their mental health face. The most common obstacle that prevents these individuals from seeking treatment is finding a therapist that will meet their personal needs and help them to achieve mental wellness. Within this article, the process of finding a therapist will be broken down into six steps, and resources will be given to provide more information on mental health and the various methods of treatment. This article will also include information on some of the tools available to help find therapists and learn more about their practices.
1. Identifying Therapists Practicing in Your Area:
The first step to finding a counselor is to identify the therapist practicing in your area. One way that this can be done is to ask for a referral from a trusted medical professional. Obtaining a referral makes it easier for a new therapist to receive your medical information and ensures that the therapist is qualified and licensed to practice mental health treatment. Along with obtaining a referral, There are resources available that allow you to find a therapist in your area and decide independently what therapist would provide the help you need.
One resource that can be used to independently search for therapists in your area and decide whether they are the best fit for you is Psychologist Locator. Psychologist Locator is a website that was developed by the American Psychology Association that allows you to find therapists within your area and learn more information about their practices. You can locate available counselors near you by imputing your area code and searching the database.
Psychology Locator provides general information on the available therapists within your area such as their contact information and location, the areas of mental health they specialize in, their methods of treatment, what form of insurance are accepted, and whether they are accepting new patients.
Another resource that can be used to independently search for therapists in your area is the National Register of Health Service Psychologists. This website is similar to Psychology Locator and allows you to find local therapists through your area code. However, this site also allows you to find therapists by searching for different specializations and treatment methods. This may be helpful if you are looking for a specific form of treatment or are looking for a therapist within a particular specialization.
In addition to this information, the National Register of Health Service Psychologists also provides general information about each therapist. Some of this information includes their location and contact information, their areas of expertise, methods of treatment, and a contact form that allows you to get in touch with the therapist.
2. Finding a therapists that fits your treatment needs:
After you have identified the available therapists in your area, the second step is to find a therapist that fits your individual needs. Each counselor practices in different areas of mental health and specialize in various mental health disorders. Counselors often utilize different methods of treatment such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive behavioral therapy. Before choosing a therapist it is important to identify their specializations and the treatment methods they practice to be sure they will be able to provide the help you need.
To ensure that you find a therapist that fits your individual needs you should also consider whether in-person or virtual therapy sessions are a better fit for you. Some people may prefer in-person counseling because they feel that face-to-face interaction allows them to create a stronger bond with a therapist. While some people do well with in-person therapy, others may prefer virtual therapy. If things like distance or travel may become an issue or have prevented you from seeking out consoling in the past, then virtual counseling sessions may be right for you. Attending virtual counseling sessions may also be a better fit for you if you experience social anxiety or have difficulty connecting with others.
3. Identify whether the therapist practices long or short-term treatment and determine which is a better fit for you:
The third step to finding a therapist is to identify whether the counselor practices long or short-term treatment. Long-term treatment often focuses on the present and past experiences that may have affected your overall life and mental health, helping you work through prevailing struggles and past trauma. While long-term treatment focuses primarily on the past, short-term treatment often focuses on a persons day to day life and the struggles they are facing. When deciding whether long or short-term treatment is best for you consider what you want to achieve from therapy.
4. Be sure the counselor you chose is someone you will feel safe and comfortable with:
After identifying whether a therapist practices long or short-term treatment, the fourth step to finding a therapist that fits your needs is to ensure that the counselor you chose is someone that you feel safe and comfortable with. You may feel more comfortable with a therapist who shares a similar gender and/or sexual identity, race, or culture. It is important that you are able to open up and become vulnerable with your therapist so you are able to heal and receive the help that you need.
Being able to relate and Identify with a therapist allows you to create a relationship with one another. Developing a relationship with your therapist is incredibly important and is a major contributing factor to the success of treatment. In an article titled, The Importance of the Relationship With a Therapist, ”In 1913, Sigmund Freud hypothesized that the relationship between the therapist and patient was a key component of successful treatment. Since that time, research has shown that the quality of this relationship is the strongest predictor of whether or not therapy is successful,” (The Family Institute at Northwestern University , Suicide risk falls substantially after talk therapy 2008)
5. Identify the financial costs upfront:
Along with the difficulty of finding a therapist, another significant barrier that prevents those who need help from beginning therapy. The costs that come along with therapy can become a financial burden, causing additional stress and anxiety. This stress can be amplified if your insurance does not cover mental health treatment or if a person does not have insurance.
To help avoid this issue it is important to take price into account when choosing a therapist. Identify how much each session will cost and whether insurance is able to be used to pay or reduce these costs. However, if you find a therapist that fits all of your individual needs but is out of your price range, it is important to remember that your mental health is important and there are programs and resources that may be able to assist you with costs. Private therapists may be willing to reduce the costs of therapy if you are unable to afford their fees. Resources like community centers may also offer free or reduced therapy. In addition to this, there may also be other financial resources available to you. Be sure to research additional methods of assistance if these resources are not available to you.