Write a 200 words or less email blurb including:
Personal example: I find movement therapy very helpful. I also engage well with therapists who can/will use technical terms, explain what theories they draw on, or why certain approaches work without using lots of metaphors.
Do they have experience working with people who have autism, eating disorders, folks dealing with grief… whatever it is! Are you curious about CBT or internal family systems or art therapy? Don’t know what approach you like - don’t worry! There’s research that shows that your rapport with your therapist is actually more impactful than their approach. If you do know, include it.
This doesn’t have to be perfect. They’ll do an intake with you anyway at your first apt. It’s just baseline info, and it’s really helpful for both you and the potential therapist, and might save you a consultation fee with someone who is not a good fit. As a bonus, this can help you identify some of your priorities.
Here is an example:
Hi, my name is Jamie, and I’m writing to ask if you are accepting new clients right now. I’m a 32 year-old gender queer person who works in academia. I have a history of alcohol addiction, but I have it under control right now and attend AA meetings regularly.
My father died this year, and I have a complicated relationship with my mother. I’m looking for support in dealing with family and work-related stress, as well as managing grief right now. While I am not seeking help with my romantic relationships right now, I am polyamorous, and I’m looking for a therapist who is comfortable with that lifestyle. I’m really interested in cognitive behavioral therapy, and might be interested in trying out some form of art therapy.
I use Blue Cross Blue Shield and my schedule is flexible during weekdays when I’m not teaching. Thanks!
Send your blurb to 10 or more therapists. If you are a member of a community that you’re afraid might be discriminated against, aim for 15 to 30. Spam it. I’m not kidding. The last time I did this for myself, I emailed 25 or 30 and maybe heard back from 6. I just helped someone else in another city, and we emailed 10 and heard back from 2. Don’t let that daunt you.
The most important thing: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Don’t stress about whether you’re sending your email blurb to the most perfect therapist who you will have for the rest of your life - just send it. Decide later.
Who to send to:
When you have heard back from a few therapists, they’ll each have their own process.
Intake appointments cost money, so if the therapist is not covered by your insurance, see if you can talk with them on the phone first to get a better sense of whether they’re a good match.
See the previously mentioned pro tips! The first time I had to talk with therapists on the phone, I cried the whole time. Get a partner or a friend to be there with you if that’s helpful!
Meet some therapists! If you can, try to meet with two or three before deciding who you stick with. If you have a particular concern about their ability to serve you, share it so they can address it.
Ex: “What is your level of comfort working with working with people who are ___________?”
“What is your experience working with people who are dealing with _______?”
If they avoid answering your question, or you get odd vibes, trust your gut, and consider trying the next person.
They may have a form with lots of questions - but remember, you’re paying for this, and it’s important for you to evaluate them as much as they’re evaluating you. Refer back to the priorities you set when writing your blurb, or write out some new ones if you want. Trust your instincts. You don’t have to decide to go with one therapist immediately, and you can walk away at any time if they don’t seem like they can serve you.
Set up regular appointments - or try out someone else. You can fire your therapist and go back to Step 2 at any time. It's hard the first time, but not actually a big deal.
Online therapy can also be a good option for many folks. Especially during Covid. More therapists are running virtual sessions, and that means you're no longer bound by geography... sort of. Unfortunately licencing often doesn't permit therapists to practice teletherapy across state lines, so it's best to look in the state you live and/or are insured in. International therapists may allow you to get around these restrictions. Check the resources page for some community-competent therapists who are based outside of the US.
Talkspace and BetterHelp are the two major pre-covid teletherapy options. They have different packages you can choose, and if you google there are articles that compare them.
I didn’t love text-based therapy; it took me too long to type out everything I wanted to say - but it was important for me as a step in learning how to advocate for my needs and wants with a mental health provider. Maybe it’s a good fit for you.
This shit is hard. Lots of folks have to go through this process to get support while they’re in the middle of difficult situations. It’s ok if it takes a little while, or if you ask other folks for help. Just know that getting through it and finding a therapist who works well with you is worth the struggle!