Factors that may inform your choice of therapist include cost, expertise, service offerings and accessibility. But the most important consideration is your comfort level, says Teralyn Sell, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and brain health expert in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Make sure a therapist is the right fit for you by reviewing their specializations, having a trial session and trusting your gut instinct, she adds.
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“Go ahead and interview a few different therapists before committing to one,” advises Sell. “And if at any point you begin to feel uncomfortable or that the therapy provided isn’t what you expected, talk openly with the therapist. But don’t feel like you can’t move on with someone else.”
If you don’t know where to start, Hafeez recommends seeking a referral from your primary care physician or a trusted friend or family member who may have had success with a therapist in the past.
As noted above, the cost of therapy can range from free to upward of $200, depending on your location, whether you have insurance and the therapist you choose. For most, cost is a factor in both seeking treatment and choosing a provider, but it shouldn’t keep you from treatment altogether.
“Cost can inform your decision to engage in therapy, but there are several ways to manage that cost,” says Sell. “For instance, if your preferred provider is out of network, use a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) to cover the costs. Many [nonprofit] agency providers also have sliding scale fees based on your ability to pay.”
Types of Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common types of talk therapy and the one that usually comes to mind when a person thinks of mental health treatment. Within CBT, therapists often specialize in a number of treatment areas, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
“Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of talk therapy that addresses negative patterns of thoughts, problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations, understanding the behaviors and motivations of others and facing one’s fears instead of avoiding them,” says Hafeez. “In other words, CBT treatment typically involves efforts to change both thinking patterns and behavioral patterns.”
Other types of therapy include eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR), which is often used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by rewiring the brain with a sequence of rapid eye movements, group therapy and more.
Session frequency varies based on individual needs and, at times, insurance coverage (your insurance carrier may limit your number of visits per year if not deemed medically necessary). Your therapist will likely recommend a session frequency based on your particular concerns and goals.
“The recommendation for sessions depends on the extent to which symptoms are impairing an individual’s life,” says Hafeez. “For example, a therapist may recommend sessions three times a week, once a week, or every other week. The greater span between sessions, the longer it takes to tackle presenting issues.”
Teletherapy vs. In-Person Sessions
Another consideration when choosing a therapist is accessibility—some people prefer to see a therapist face to face while teletherapy may be more convenient for others… Recent research suggests CBT provided in a teletherapy setting is just as effective as in-person treatment. “There are advantages and disadvantages to online therapy and in-person therapy, but both provide the same quality of care, guidance, empathy and other types of support,” says Hafeez.
She adds that in-person therapy makes it easier for a therapist to observe an individual’s body language and other subtle cues during a session, but teletherapy is more comfortable and convenient for many people. In fact, the proliferation of online therapy platforms like BetterHelp, Talkspace and others makes 24/7 access to a therapist possible.