Finding the right counsellor for your needs can be overwhelming, especially when there are so many to choose from. Here are some ideas to help you with your search:
1) Ask people you trust.
While discussing one’s therapist may not be typically afternoon-coffee conversation, it’s very possible that people you know have seen a therapist. If you prefer not to have this conversation with friends and family, you can also ask other people you trust: your doctor, teacher, chiropractor, physiotherapist, coach, among others may have some idea about where to start. Of course, it’s important to recognize that everyone has different needs. A therapist who was a good match for someone else may not be the right fit for you.
2) Use a reliable online database or a local mental health listing service to help in your search.
If you are looking for a therapist in private practice (meaning the therapist works in a professional business that is not funded by a government or non-profit agency), try Psychology Today. The site allows you to search based on your location, the types of therapy you are searching for, and details connected to the therapist or clinic/practice (like the therapists gender and/or whether you want to see someone online or in person).
If you are specifically searching for a psychologist, use Find A Psychologist – Psychologists’ Association of Alberta. The PAA’s referral service allows you to search for a psychologist by location, gender, sliding scale, and/or the concern you are hoping to address.
If you would like to explore the local mental health options available through Alberta Health Services, consider calling the Alberta Mental Health Helpline
If you live in the Calgary region, Access Mental Health (through AHS) offers a comprehensive listing of supports in the area. This includes a variety of community resources.
3) Consult with your insurance company.
If you have insurance that can assist in paying for therapy, check with them to see who they cover. Every insurance company is different, and some will only cover specific types of practitioners. As a registered psychologist, my services are covered by most insurance plans.
4) Take advantage of free consultations.
Many counselling services offer a free 15-30 minute consultation. This is your opportunity to meet the therapist, ask as many questions as you want, and get to know a little bit about what they offer and how they work.
5) Listen to your gut.
You are the best judge of whether someone will be helpful to you or not. The person’s credentials, experience, or high recommendation means little if you don’t feel like you can trust them, If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, you have the right to look for another therapist without apology! Of course, you may feel a little uncomfortable in any new relationship and there may be moments where you and your therapist are out-of-step; however, if the discomfort goes beyond that, consider your options
6) Think about your goals ahead of time.
Having a sense of what you are hoping to get out of therapy may help you to decide who to access for support. For example, if you would like to explore the option of utilizing medication to manage your mood, you may want to see a doctor (either your family physician or a psychiatrist). If you are looking for social support and connection to help you through your concerns, you may want to access group counselling or a support group. If you want to work on your marriage, accessing someone with training in couple’s counselling is your best bet. Knowing what you are looking for can help you narrow down your search.
7) Consider alternatives.
Therapy is not the only way to address your concerns, Often, engaging in other activities can help alleviate distress. These may include activities that are physical, social, creative, or spiritual pursuits. Accessing mental health aps can be helpful too.
8) Give it a try.
It may take a couple of sessions with a counsellor for you to get a clear sense of whether they are a fit for you. Give it a try and see where it leads. You are not locked in, so if you find that you are just not meshing you are welcome to move on to someone new.
Finding the right counsellor is an effort worth embarking on. Once you are connected with someone with whom you feel accepted and supported, you will be well on your way to meeting your goals.