5 Tips to Finding a Therapist: Leading You to Love of Self [Words by Raqiyah Mays]


It can be a dirty word in some circles: Therapy. Shows like Empire touch on it. Illustrating how the sound of hearing that someone needs professional help, makes some suck their teeth and roll their eyes with disbelief. When it comes to the black community, therapy is a bad word that needs to be turned good.

According to research at the Stanford University School of Medicine, therapy works. In one study, 75% of patients improved emotionally after 6 months of seeing a psychologist. 50% showed improvement after only eight sessions. But therapy isn’t just helpful for depression or anxiety. It can also get to the root of healing problems related to numerous things – from repeated lateness, anger, trust, or control issues, to work-related fear, insecurity, and cycles of relationship dysfunction. Speaking to someone unrelated and completely objective, gives a fresh, unfiltered, and trained ear to help resolve difficulties that we can’t and shouldn’t have to deal with alone.

Sure, friends can help by listening and offering advice. But they’re not doctors trained in psychology. Talking to the wrong person can inadvertently cause deeper wounds. So it’s important to search for a therapist like you prepare to buy a car. Research and shopping around are key.

Here are 5 tips to finding the right therapist for you:

1. Referrals – Ask friends and family if they can refer someone. If no one in your circle can help, skip to tip #2.

2. Research – Call and ask your health insurance provider for a list of therapists in your network. If you don’t have insurance (*I’ll explain what to do later in this article) Go to Psychology Today’s Therapy Finder or use the American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator Service to type in your zip code for someone near you. During this research, decide if you want a male or female therapist. Gender matters when it comes to comfort.

3. InterviewAll doctors are not created equal. When you find a list of therapists in your area, make a list of questions to ask before you call them. This phone call is the interview where you essentially make sure you should hire them for the job.  Ask about their certifications, years of practice, and areas of specialty. Do they specialize in the area you’re seeking to heal? Have they worked with others like you?  What treatments have they used? How much do they charge? *Some therapists will see you, even if you don’t have health insurance, by providing a sliding scale for payments based on your income.

4. Pay Attention – Pay attention to how you feel during this phone call. Do you feel comfortable talking to them? Do they sound kind and patient or rushed and short? Did they return your initial call promptly within 24 hours? You want someone who is gentle, respects, and values your time. Use your intuition. Process how you feel. Then Google them.

5. The In-person Interview – Seeing them in-person is when you make the final decision if this is the right therapist for you. It might take 1-3 sessions to figure it out. Make a mental note of what they do: Did they arrive on-time? (I once had a therapist who showed up late to more than one session. Yikes!)  Did they give you their full attention or were they checking emails or their phone? Did you feel comfortable speaking to them in person? Nervousness is normal. But the right therapist will eventually make you feel safe enough to open up during a typical 1-hour session.

A bad encounter with an irresponsible psychologist doesn’t mean that they all suck. All doctors are not created equal. Keep in mind that it’s normal to feel fear and embarrassment during the search process. These feelings might momentarily prevent you from calling a therapist. But as you deal with these emotions, remember that you’re loving yourself by seeking to heal yourself. With work, all wounds can heal.


WBLS’ very own Raqiyah Mays is an author, journalist, and empowerment activist. Her debut “Self-help” fiction novel “The Man Curse” (Simon & Schuster Digital) is available for digital download at themancurse.com.

The Man Curse book cover

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