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Nope. You can't solve it declaratively, because for therapy to work, you need to find a therapist that "clicks" with you.

Pick a therapist. Tell them you're shopping, you'd like both a trial session and recommendations for alternatives. If they're not willing to do that, they're not the right person. Most are.

I agree with you that it's important to find a therapist that "clicks" with you, but I'm convinced that taking the first step and making an appointment is the hardest part. An order of magnitude harder than making a second or third appointment. Therefore, I think the most important problem in mental health is getting people through the front door and sitting in someone's office.

I think the concerns could be harmonized with the OP by simply spitting out, "Here are 5 people to call" with perhaps a little info on their approach. This could of course link to a description of what those approaches mean, i.e. "CBT seeks to change mental habits in the moment by teaching tools to rethink and process reactions as they happen" etc.

edit: Typo

Completely agree with this, and will even say that the weird thing about mental health is that you may not even be able to trust your own judgment, since that's the part thats sick.

A few years ago, I had decided on my own that I needed medication; the depression was so overwhelming that I felt like the problem had to be chemical, and no "touchy-feely" talking therapy could possibly help. I went to a few psychiatrists, with varying degrees of success (I caught one reading side effects of a medication off of wikipedia) and stopped going several times because I felt like it wasnt helping. It was only when things got bad that I found a therapist (I think I just googled "therapist <my neighborhood>") -- who I liked -- and she convinced me to just give her way a try. It worked.

I am on medication again, and its helping, but it was really the therapy that I was so against thats making the biggest difference. All of this is to say that find someone you like, and then be open. Deciding how you want to be treated from the outset doesn't necessarily make sense. Mental health issues are like any other illness -- we go to doctors for their advice and expertise. But you need to go.

Want to strongly re-affirm the fact that you should tell them you're exploring multiple therapists, and that you SHOULD try a few. Each therapist has a different style, and therapy is not a formula that everyone just "implements". Being able to form a connection with your therapist is very important, and while you might pick the right one off the bat, trying a few will help you pick the right one for you.

This is absolutely true, as a therapist myself, I always recommend this.

Of course. The trouble is finding those first few people to talk to in the first place.


I'm really not kidding. The range of usefulness of therapists is so large that "any therapist is a good starting point" usually works. It's better when you can ask friends, but if you can't, any therapist will do.

I work in the mental health space (we make practice management systems for therapists) and I couldn’t disagree more. The quality of therapists varies so widely that frankly some of them, I can’t imagine how they ever got licensed.

Working in the industry, would you have any specific suggestions for someone who feels overwhelmed to winnow the options from 1000-ish to under a dozen?

As a person who recently had to do this, my suggestion would be to find someone close to either your home or work. Next would be to find someone of the gender you prefer (I prefer same-sex), then find someone in the age group you're in. I've had good luck using this heuristic to whittle down the list to a few names.

Then go for a brief session with each of them. You should pick the person you feel most comfortable talking to EASILY. This person should be someone you don't feel judged or threatened by. You should be able to understand them clearly and they you.

Think about it like it's a date. In a way, it kinda is.

Indeed, you both have to click, as a therapist, I won't receive anyone I feel I couldn't work with sincerely (no judging and lovingly). In those cases I would always recommend someone I feel would be better suited.

I'm saying the same thing. I'm also saying that without a personal referral, you can't tell. (Hence my upstream recommendation of having a trial session and asking for referrals)

But outside of "pick one and start there", what would you recommend if somebody can't get a recommendation from friends/family? How do you find a decent practitioner?

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