Most people wait until they have been experiencing psychological problems, whether it be depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, or other issues, until these problems have been robbing their daily lives of joy for way too long. There are many reasons for this, but I suspect that the two most powerful reasons are twofold – first, the stigma of psychological disorders (and admitting that there is a significant problem for this reason) slows people down,cand second, it can be difficult to find the right person to help you with whatever the problem is.
The issues of stigma and admitting that you have a problem are issues that we will leave for another time. The task of finding someone to help you is one we can tackle here.
I believe that the single best way to find a therapist/counselor/prescriber is to ask among people that you trust if they can recommend someone. Of course, there may not be anyone you trust enough to ask. In that case, you might ask your primary care provider. I don’t think this is always a great way to find someone, because I have seen many cases in which PCPs make referrals to people who are really not very good at what they do. I think that often PCPs make referrals to therapists/prescribers that they know are available to accept referrals, rather than because they know much about the quality of the person’s work. Another way to find a provider of mental health services is to look online at the reviews of professionals in your area. Healthgrades.com and vitals.com are two of the websites that provide reviews. If you google the name of someone that you are considering, reviews will often appear. If you are seeing a prescriber for medication, and you have decided that counseling would be helpful, ask your prescriber to recommend someone, and vice versa.
Psychology Today (psychologytoday.com) has a large database of providers in each geographic area. Each entry is accompanied by information about the individual’s area of expertise and specialization and often is accompanied by a photo of the person. This database is a a useful tool, whether you are looking for a counselor/therapist or a prescriber.
It can be helpful to visit the website of your insurance company to identify the names of mental health professionals in your area that take your insurance. These databases are often out of date, so don’t be surprised if you call to make an appointment with someone who you believe to be a provider for your insurance, only to find out that this is not the case. If you contact a provider who you very much are hoping to see and they explain that they are not accepting new clients/patients, ask them if there is someone they could recommend.
Most importantly, you often have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince. This applies to mental health professionals, especially psychotherapists, just as it is true when it comes to romance. Do not continue with someone that you do not feel “gets” you or with whom you do not feel a good chemistry. You are investing significant time and psychic energy in your health – it is important to find someone you really feel good about.