November 17, 2022 by John Fernandez
Help Finding the Best Mental Health Therapist for You
Your anxiety has crept to new levels, you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, you’re having relationship difficulties, you find yourself wanting to withdraw from friends and family. Any one of these issues could drive us to search for a therapist. Seeking help is a great step forward, but how do you know you’ll find the best person to guide you through the challenges you face?
Enter the mental health experts at Baptist Health South Florida. The good news, they say, is that with a little leg work and an open mind, you can find a therapist you can trust and one who will help you achieve your goals.
“Searching for a therapist can be intimidating,” says Manuela Rodriguez, M.S., MFT, a behavioral health specialist with Baptist Health. “There’s a lot of information to sift through. We want an authentic, genuine relationship with a therapist. It’s like any other health specialist that you see. You want to feel better when you see them.”
Ms. Rodriguez has several tips to help you find the right fit. Among them:
- Determine your goal for therapy ― When you know what you want to achieve, you can see if that matches the type of work done by the therapist (often information such as this can be found on the therapist’s website).
- Verify licensing ― Go to the state board here to check that the therapist you are interested in is active and licensed in Florida.
- Check the therapist’s specialization – There are licensed mental health counselors, licensed marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists. They may have different approaches to care and their practice may focus on specific problems.
- Keep your initial search small ― “I suggest starting with about five therapists,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “More than that and it can become overwhelming. If you can find a few that you feel might work for you, just pick up the phone and see who has an appointment available.”
- Go in person or virtual ―With more providers offering telehealth visits, you may even be able to arrange a virtual appointment. Baptist Health Care On Demand offers virtual mental health services. Individual therapists may also provide virtual visits.
Those just starting therapy often ask how often they should see their therapist and over what length of time. The initial visit, Ms. Rodriguez said, is a good time to ask these questions. “Generally speaking, you’ll want to talk about any short-term or long-term goals you may have,” she said. “Once a week is common at the beginning, and as you feel yourself working through the chaos and starting to feel that you are making progress, you might go to every other week or once a month. You do want time for self-reflection between visits.”
If you aren’t sure that the therapist is right for you, it’s okay to search for someone else. But do give the relationship a little time, she advised. “Just like any relationship, it takes time to build trust. You need to advocate for yourself, too, and talk to the therapist if you feel something isn’t going well or that you’d like to try something different.”
She also encourages people to bring spouses, partners and even children with them to counseling. It allows the therapist to see the bigger picture and if the extended family member encounters issues later in life that a therapist could help them work through, they are already comfortable talking with a professional.
“Sometimes patients need to explain to their family that it is helpful to have them come in, not because something is wrong with them, but because they are part of the patient’s support system and can help them achieve their goals,” Ms. Rodriguez said.
Ideally, she’d like people to search for a counselor when their symptoms are manageable and before becoming too severe. But those who are suffering a mental health crisis, should not wait to talk with someone and should call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. Beginning July 16, anyone in the U.S. may call 988 and they will be connected to the lifeline. It is free and available 24/7.
In May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month, and throughout the year, Baptist Health is offering a number of free mental health programs. Click here to view the calendar. For more information on Baptist Health behavioral health services, go to https://baptisthealth.net/services/behavioral-health.
In addition, throughout May you can receive 25 percent off a 45-minute mental health consult at Care On Demand by entering promo code: SELFLOVE25. The consult is regularly $99.