Mental health care is just as important as physical health care, and it’s vitally important to seek help when your mind feels off.
In the United States, anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental illness. Anxiety affects about 40 million adults in the U.S. — that’s 18% of the population. Anxiety can also be life threatening. Those who suffer from an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to visit the doctor, and six times more likely to be hospitalized for a psychiatric disorder.
And according to The Aviva Health of the Nation Index, in 2012 general practitioners reported that about 84% of their appointments were related to stress and anxiety, and 55% of their patients reported mental health issues.
Despite the prevalence and treatability of anxiety disorders, very few people seek treatment. Only about 33% of those suffering from anxiety get treated, and according to an ADAA survey, 36% of those with a social anxiety disorder experienced symptoms for over a decade before they sought help.
Whether you’re stressed, anxious, depressed, or just need someone to talk to, there are plenty of different types of therapy, and plenty of different practitioners within each subset. If you’re wondering how to find the right therapist in the middle of the therapy hay stack, you’re not alone.
Here are three things you should pay close attention to as you search for the best therapist for you. How to find the right therapist:
- Trusted recommendations. The internet is full of plenty of reviews, but nothing beats a personal referral from someone you trust. Ideally, this is someone whom you know has really benefited from sessions with this therapist, and someone you can talk to in some depth about why they like a certain therapist, and what the sessions are like. If friends and family come up dry, consider calling an institute for recommendations of therapists near you. Just remember — good therapy is infinitely more valuable than convenient therapy. And a commute home after a session could provide you with valuable processing time.
- Pictures worth a thousand words. If your prospective therapist’s professional photo looks like a glamour shot, or features the therapist engaged in some hobby or sport, it could be a bad sign. Always trust your gut — the relationship you’re looking to build will be deeply personal, and it won’t work out if you have a strange feeling about your therapist, for whatever reason.
Similarly, it’s important to take gender into account. Most people know that they would prefer to work with a therapist of a certain gender, so don’t be afraid to stick to your guns on that point. The preference can stem from any number of things, and it’s just not worth it to make yourself unnecessarily uncomfortable.
- Theoretical orientation. Depending on what you think your problem might be, there are different types of therapies you should consider. When determining how to find the right therapist for your particular issue, look for orientations like cognitive, behavioral, and narrative.
The fusion cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common, and is designed to help patients change their thought patterns in order to change problematic behaviors. Another therapy increasing in popularity is mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), which focuses on maintaining awareness and acceptance of the present moment to allow yourself to disengage from negativity.
This latter therapy can be particularly effective for ceasing addictive behaviors like smoking; A 2015 research review found that 13 studies of mindfulness-based interventions for smoking cessation had promising results in terms of craving, actual abstention, and relapse prevention. MBCT can also help with general anxiety: 60 percent of those prone to anxiety showed distinct improvement in their anxiety levels after six to nine months of meditation practice.
There’s even a special branch of MBCT just for those who suffer from insomnia. A small study funded by NCCIH found that mindfulness-based therapy for insomnia (MBTI) significantly reduced the severity of chronic insomnia.
Regardless of why you’re seeking therapy, these tips for how to find the right therapist for your needs should help ease you in.