I recently found myself on a quest to find a new therapist in San Francisco. I had been working with the same person for the past three years and I was inspired by our work together but I knew I was ready for a change.
I found myself nervous to start over and I was reminded that finding a therapist is hard! So, I figured I would share a few tips on how I went about finding a new therapist and maybe it will help you.
7 Steps to finding the best therapist in San Francisco
- Find people you admire and ask them who their therapist is. This might be a little easier for me because half of my friends are in the field of mental health, but you might want to consider your yoga teacher, a trusted friend, your doctor, or someone you know who is a health care provider. Often, if they don’t see a therapist themselves they might know of resources in your community that you never even considered.
- Make a list of important topics, symptoms or orientations you are interested in. For me, it was important that my new therapist was a woman who worked with mindfulness and could guide me with my work as well as support me around family. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, anger, work, life transitions, food, OCD, etc – write it down.
- Look into different types of therapy. There are so many interesting styles of therapy these days and you might have strong preferences about how your therapist interacts with you. Here is a very brief list of some popular styles of therapy:
- Psychodynamic – traditional empathy based depth psychology
- AEDP/EFT – attachment and relationship oriented psychotherapy
- Hakomi – body centered and mindfulness based psychotherapy
- CBT/DBT – thought and behavior modification psychotherapy
- EMDR – (eye movement and desensitization reprocessing) for trauma
- Psychoanalysis – Freud/Jung, focuses on transference and unconscious
- Do a Google search with a combination of your list of symptoms and interests in combination with the styles of therapy (listed above). See if there are any therapists in your area who match your criteria.
- Once you have a few names of people, check out their website, see what they say and whether you like their online presence. Many therapists do not have websites, so don’t be deterred if you can’t find much besides name and address.
- Be open to ‘kissing a lot of toads’. You might start compiling a lengthy list of referrals and it is best to meet with a few different people in person.
- Trust your gut! When you go into someone’s office and you don’t feel good about your chemistry, don’t see them. You want to create a safe space for yourself. A place where you can be real and do deep work. This process starts with comfort and trust.
What makes a great therapist?
A great therapist is going to be a smart, thoughtful, curious and inspiring person. Often your sessions with a great therapist will provide new insights and intimacy. Sometimes your session will provide the answers you have been looking for while other times your session will take an unexpected turn and you’ll be exploring memories and feelings you didn’t even know needed attention.
A great therapist will pay close attention to you. She (or he) will be interested in everything about you and will believe that your work together is moving you toward mental, spiritual and emotional health.
Starting therapy is hard. You are brave for putting yourself out there and making your personal wellbeing a priority. I believe that if we all take care of ourselves and we live our lives with awareness and compassion – we are serving the world around us because we are making good decisions, we are kind to people around us and we speak our personal truths.
Good luck finding your next therapist!
(Image credit: Greg Goodman: Photographic Storytelling)