What to Consider When Seeking Out Support from a Mental Health Professional
Deciding to seek out the support of mental health or wellness professionals is no small thing! It’s a big, brave step in choosing to push yourself forward in your personal journey, no matter where you are in that process. That said, the task of finding the right person to fit your needs can feel like a daunting and overwhelming undertaking in and of itself. It can feel challenging to identify where to begin, and to know what to look for. Every person has unique needs and preferences. Below are some suggestions of what to consider as you start the process of seeking professional mental health support.
Consider what you’re looking to get out of this process.
Reasons for working with a mental health professional can range from super specific (“I want to learn tangible strategies for better navigating my anger when at work”) to really open-ended (“I’ve been having a hard time lately and want a safe space to talk through it”). There is no right or wrong reason for seeking support, but getting clear on why you’re doing it will help you get the most out of your time there.
Ask yourself: who do I feel most comfortable talking to?
Everyone moves through the world holding many intersecting identities, and it’s perfectly ok to prioritize seeking out a mental health professional who shares some or all of those identities with you. Race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and ability, for example, are all perfectly acceptable starting places to begin your search. Remember, this is about you. Center your needs so that your experience is as meaningful as possible.
Finding the right fit can take time. Set up a bunch of consultation calls. It can be hard to get a real feel for someone over the phone, but it’s a free and time-efficient way to learn about someone before you commit to seeing them in person and paying for a session. While having all these phone calls can be a lot of work, it will pay off in the end to find the right person with which to invest in building that strong, ongoing partnership.
Ask the hard questions.
As you schedule your consultation calls, think about what you want to ask each person about their practice and have a list of questions ready ahead of time. Again, this is about you, so ask the things that matter most! Everyone has different wonderings and specific needs, but some examples of things to ask could include:
- What experience do you have working specifically with ___________ identity/issue/experience?
- What does a typical session look, sound, and feel like?
- How does your analysis of systemic oppression shape your practice?
- Are there any specific teachers or teachings that have particularly influenced your work?
- What does “success” in therapy mean to you?
- Are you trained in any specific modality? How does that guide your work?
- How much do your services cost? What insurance do you take? Is there a sliding scale?
Trust your gut.
A strong relationship is foundational to any and all therapeutic interactions. If the relationship doesn’t feel safe, supportive, or positively connected, it’s unlikely you’ll get as much out of it as you could.
We all have the capacity for personal growth, healing, and change work. Choosing to proactively do that work in partnership with someone else is brave, bold, and beautiful. Remember to be patient with yourself, and with the process. Change can feel slow, but it can also fundamentally shift the trajectory of one’s life. You do not need to do this alone.
Psychology Today is a centralized search tool for mental health providers. You can filter by zip code, insurance, identities, modality, language, and issue areas to help focus your search to fit your needs.
Therapy for Black Girls houses resources, podcasts, and a searchable directory of therapists specifically curated for black women.
The National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN) is a healing justice organization that works to transform mental health for queer and trans people of color. The website includes resources and a searchable directory of practitioners.