Finding a good therapist in Marin, San Francisco, or beyond can be challenging and overwhelming. Where do you look and how do you choose amongst the numerous psychologists, counselors, marriage and family therapists, social workers, and others who provide psychotherapy services? Here are some tips and suggestions on finding an appropriate and qualified therapist for your particular needs.
Before beginning your search, know what you’re looking for:
1. Make sure your therapist has the proper education, training, and experience for the problem you want to address (e.g., anxiety, depression, eating disorder, relationship issue). As in most professions, not all therapists are equal in skill, experience, and effectiveness. In addition, therapists can’t specialize in treating everything. It’s important to choose a therapist that has training and experience for the particular problem(s) you are seeking help for. Beware of therapists who claim they can effectively treat everything and everyone.
2. It’s important to talk to any therapist you are considering before deciding to see him or her. This can be done by phone or in person. Many therapists offer free initial phone consultations, which allow you to ask questions, inquire about their style and approach, and see if it’s the right fit for you.
3. Therapy is most often done weekly, so choosing a therapist located close to you will help ease the stress of commuting. This can be near where you live, work, or even on the way to work if you have a long commute. Most therapists have flexible hours, so you can usually see them anytime throughout the day. Some therapists also offer therapy by phone or through Skype to make it even more convenient.
To locate a psychologist, counselor, or other therapist in Marin, San Francisco, or throughout California there are several options:
1. Online Directories—This is a free, quick, and efficient way to find a qualified therapist in your area. Most directories provide the therapist’s bio, education, specialties, services provided, therapeutic approach, fees, contact info, and website address. Many directories also have a photo of the therapist.
Here are some recommended online therapy directories for the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond:
The Marin County Psychological Association has an online “Find a Psychologist” directory that allows you to search for licensed psychologists in Marin by neighborhood, specialty, and languages spoken.
The San Francisco Psychological Association’s online directory allows you to search for psychologists in San Francisco by problem, type of service, treatment approach, languages, and age groups.
The California Psychological Association offers an online locator for psychologists in California.
Psychology Today offers one of the largest online therapist locators. Their “Find a Therapist” directory allows you to search for therapists, group therapy, and treatment centers throughout the US and parts of Canada. They also provide thorough bios and provide targeted searches for therapists specializing in the particular problem you’re seeking help for.
Counseling California offers an online directory of marriage and family therapists in California.
Tips for an effective search:
- Use specific keywords to locate therapists who specialize in what you want help with (e.g., “therapists for anxiety Marin” “psychologists for eating disorders San Rafael” “therapy for depression Oakland” “group therapy for eating disorders San Francisco” “couples counseling Palo Alto”)
- Check out several therapist websites (especially what they specialize in), read their bios and training/education.
3. Get a referral from your doctor—Some family doctors and internists have a referral list for therapists in your area. However, if you do get a referral, follow the other tips above to make sure the therapist matches what you’re looking for. Sometimes doctors don’t know the psychologists well, so it’s important to thoroughly check them out on your own. This can be done by doing a search online using the therapist’s name, checking out their website, and doing an initial phone consultation.
4. Ask a friend or family member—If you know of a friend or family member who’s seeing a therapist (especially for a similar issue), don’t be afraid to ask for the therapist’s name, and of course, if they recommend him/her. Your pal could also ask their therapist if they could recommend another therapist for you (one who works with your particular issue).
5. Inquiry with another health professional—Ask your massage therapist, chiropractor, dentist, yoga or Pilates instructor, or personal trainer if they know of a good therapist. But again – even if someone you trust offers a recommendation, check out the therapist yourself using the guidelines above.
Lastly, choosing a qualified and effective therapist can be challenging and confusing, because there are many types of therapists (e.g., psychologists, MFTs, social workers, etc.) and many different theoretical approaches to therapy. Going to an ineffective, unqualified, or simply bad therapist can make problems worse, and leave you feeling less hopeful and disheartened. To help educate yourself about the different types of therapists and therapies available, I highly recommend the book “Bad Therapy, Good Therapy, and How to Tell the Difference” by Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D.
If you have any follow-up questions about finding a therapist in Marin, San Francisco, or elsewhere, feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org