When we moved from Connecticut to California over a year ago, I had to end therapy with the therapist I had there. (I really liked her, but figured 3,000 miles was too far to go for an appointment.) I still had some issues to be worked out, so a few weeks ago I faced the fact that I needed to find a therapist in the area.
I started, as I usually do, by asking my psychiatrist if he could recommend a good therapist, but he surprised me by telling me that he didn't know anyone he could recommend, although he offered to look over the list of therapists that were available under my health insurance.
I was stumped. I've never had to start from ground zero, so to speak. I always got a recommendation from my psychiatrist that turned out well, fortunately. I finally turned to a resource that, unfortunately, most people don't have access to. There is a community bulletin board in the area started by University of California, Berkeley employees called Berkeley Parents Network. I've found recommendations for everything from facialists to pediatricians, so I figured there had to be therapist recommendations.
Our health insurance has a website with a list of in-network therapists, so I cross-checked that with recommended female therapists from the Berkeley Parents Network list. I came up with a few names and called the ones I felt most positive about, in terms of what the review said about them and the style I felt I would be comfortable with in a therapist.
Another thing I've never done in the past while finding a therapist is interview more than one person. In the past, I've gotten one name, made an appointment and agreed to continue with him or her at the end of the session. Not what you would call thorough.
I had mixed reactions to the phone conversations I initially had with the four therapists I ended up making appointments with. (I'll refer to them as Therapist #1 - #4, based on the chronology of the appointments I made.) Therapist #2 sounded detached and cold. Therapist #4 seemed somewhat ditsy. However, I figured that some people, like me, are not just good on the phone, so I shouldn't jump to conclusions about #2 and #4. I did have very good impressions of Therapist #1 and #3, and ended up chatting with #3 for a good ten minutes.
I saw Therapist #1 on Tuesday afternoon. I was immediately comfortable with her and settled down in her office to start the interview. The first thing I asked her was, "I forgot to ask - what type of insurance do you take?" She apologized for not mentioning it on the phone, but said that she didn't take insurance at all.
Oh, crud. There is no way I can pay for this out of pocket.
During the rest of the appointment we talked about my issues, during which she raised an interesting point that hadn't occurred to me, so it was not a complete waste. But I told her that it was unlikely I would continue with her, due to the insurance issue.
I saw Therapist #2 on Thursday morning, with some trepidation I might add. My initial impression of her on the phone as cold and detached seemed accurate in person as well. She did take insurance, and my particular plan, so that was a plus. But at the end of the appointment I asked her how she would go about attacking my issues, which is a question that I asked of all four therapists. The question seemed to throw her, which was not a good sign.
I saw Therapist #3 on Thursday afternoon, by which time I was already really tired of talking about myself! I did like her a lot, and she had a thoughtful response to my question about what method she would use to help me work through things. However, she was not in my insurance network, which means that I would have to pay the first $1,000 of therapy before my insurance company would start picking up the tab. And then they would only pay 70%.
And here's the other thing - I was too comfortable with Therapist #3. I had a feeling we'd end up chatting a lot and possibly get off track. And after all, I was looking for a therapist, not a friend. I might have sold her short - it's very possible that she would keep our sessions on track. But the possibility that she wouldn't, along with the insurance issue, kept her from being my first choice.
Since I had no clear choice at this point, I really, really hoped that Therapist #4 would work out. I saw her on Friday morning and was immediately impressed. She was not at all ditsy and had a good answer to my "method" question. Also, though I was unlikely to ever need it, her answering machine message gave the number of her cell phone in case of emergencies. That's more than most therapists will provide (probably for a good reason) but indicated to me that she really cared about her patients.
So I told her at the end of the session that I would like to go forward with seeing her. I probably should have gone home and thought about it for a couple of days, but I really wanted to settle on someone.
So maybe I'll add impulsiveness to the list of things I want to work on with this therapist.
Published On: April 19, 2007