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Finding the Right Therapist: A Practical Guide To Navigating Outpatient Mental Health Services

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Finding the right outpatient therapist is an essential component of recovery. Well-informed patients who understand where and what help is available tend to have better therapeutic outcomes.

Having access to the right tools and resources, including therapy, can aid the recovery of those with mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. It is critical to find a therapist you connect with as a person who understands the problems you are experiencing. Knowing some facts upfront about therapy and the process helps. Preparing a list of customized interview questions in advance is also helpful for getting to know providers before jumping in to work with them. 


Mental health treatment is needed more than ever. However, therapy can be expensive. Finding cost-effective treatment can reduce the stress and cost of out-of-pocket fees. Utilizing insurance plans and maximizing insurance benefits to pay for care is essential, as well as working with your therapist to find cost-effective solutions for treatment.

When searching for a therapist, always call your insurance carrier to understand your plan’s mental health benefits. Some therapists are considered in-network with insurance, while others may be out-of-network. You should ask questions about your deductible and out-of-pocket costs and whether you can submit out-of-network benefits. 

A therapist may furnish a superbill to submit for out-of-network claims. Other resources are available to those without economic means, including scholarships for treatment programs and state insurance for those who qualify. Always ask questions and advocate for the help you need.

Types of Therapy and Therapists 

Look for a therapist who specializes in a type of therapy that matches your specific mental health condition. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a gold standard treatment with excellent outcomes for disorders like anxiety. Identifying the symptoms and then researching effective treatments on the internet sometimes helps. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a common treatment for borderline personality disorder and other conditions. Therapists with these specialties are sometimes more difficult to find but are usually highly trained and sought after. Therapist search engines can narrow down specialties (CBT, DBT, trauma therapy, and others) and match you with an appropriate therapist.

Therapists come with a variety of educational backgrounds and credentials. Typically, all therapists hold a master’s degree, some in social work, others in clinical counseling. Additionally, some therapists are psychologists (either PhDs or PsyDs). A therapist who holds a master’s degree is typically a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) or licensed practical counselor (LPC). A LADC is a licensed addiction and drug counselor. Many therapists advertise their services in online listings such as psychologytoday.com. These listings should provide all their credentials and what types of therapy they use. 

The specialties and backgrounds of therapists can vary and may impact your decision to connect for a consultation. Upon the first intake call or consultation, the therapist should outline the treatments used and provide a basic treatment plan as an initial course of action. This is a good sign the therapist is attentive and understands your issues. 

Other Therapy Tips and Tools

When considering a clinician, decide which gender and personality style you feel most at ease with. Some people respond to a warm, soft approach to treatment, while others may need a therapist who pushes them toward their goals. Finding someone who fits your needs and can validate your experience is crucial. 

Another important consideration is whether you would be more comfortable in an office setting or doing virtual therapy from home. There are many ways to personalize your therapy experience. Finding a therapist available at the times of the week that work best with your schedule is an important consideration. Additionally, ask if your provider is available to provide you with additional support if needed outside of sessions. Examples may include phone coaching, crisis support, or biweekly meetings.

Ending Thoughts

Having an open mind when starting therapy will go a long way in selecting the right care provider for you. Learning to trust someone with your story is a powerful skill. I have experienced remarkable changes achieved through different therapy types and a good therapeutic relationship. It takes patience, work, and dedication. Learning to navigate insurance reimbursements and communicate your needs to a therapy provider will hopefully give you a good head start to hit the ground running. 

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialists can help you find expert mental health resources and support in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service.

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About the Author: Tara Young is an avid reader and writer who hopes to spread awareness on a variety of mental health topics with the intent of providing education through lived experience. She values recovery and hopes to provide a space readers turn to in difficult times.

Photo by cottonbro studio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-green-button-up-shirt-wearing-black-framed-eyeglasses-reading-book-4855373/

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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