Anxiety disorder affects 40 million adults or 18% of the population.
What many people don’t know is that there are treatments for anxiety available – treatments that can help you overcome your anxieties and lead a more enjoyable life.
There are many factors to consider when looking for a therapist. The most important is whether or not you find them trustworthy, and whether they can handle your specific anxiety disorder.
If you have social anxiety, it might be difficult to form this trust with someone who has never been through what you have.
In this blog post, we will go over some tips on how to find the right therapist or psychologist for anxiety disorder.
It is of course difficult to get any sort of referral for a therapist when you do not know anyone who has had anxiety. This can be solved by asking (close) friends and family if they know someone or therapists in your area with experience treating social anxiety.
These are some keywords I would recommend using:
- social anxiety therapist
- anxiety therapist
- phobia therapist
- clinical psychologist
Remember that it is important to find one specifically with experience (from personal experience, I often found inexperienced therapists did not understand what it meant to have SAD). Also, look for one who specializes in the treatment of phobias. If you’re looking for couples therapy just out of curiosity, don’t worry about it. If you are looking for couples therapy specifically because of social anxiety, make sure they have experience working with SAD patients.
Don’t be afraid to meet multiple therapists until you find one that trust.
This is not an easy process, but I promise the first session will allow you to get a good idea of whether or not this person is trustworthy (who wouldn’t feel bad about judging someone after the first meeting?). I would also recommend trying more than one therapist before ruling them all out; different therapists work in different ways and some might suit your needs better than others.
I found cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) worked best for me, but that’s just my experience.
This is not always possible, but if you are looking for therapy on a budget then online therapy might be your way to go.
Check out Psychology Today to see reviews and ratings of therapists in your area.
Not only do many of the therapists on this site offer free first sessions, but there are also ways to pay per session (by credit card or phone). If you’re paying out-of-pocket, I would recommend at least two sessions before making any sort of decision. Therapy is an investment, and each person’s experience will vary greatly depending on their therapist (one might suit you more than another; one might make you uncomfortable while another makes it easy to open up; etc.).
It took me trying 3 different therapists until I found one who made me feel comfortable enough to open up (and even then it was difficult for me to share my fears).
Look out for red flags
Every therapist will have some sort of an online presence (they need to be able to post their qualifications, etc.) so make sure you look at each one’s website before scheduling an appointment.
For example; if they are not taking new patients or it takes months/years to get an appointment with, I would not recommend booking with them unless necessary.
Every therapist has their schedule and is usually busy enough without the hassle of complying with every patient who calls. It is also important that your therapist addresses your concerns; if they seem dismissive of your social anxiety disorder then this might not be the best fit for you. Also, if they want to focus on your relationships rather than your anxiety disorder then this might not be the best fit.
Contact your insurance provider
It is incredibly important that you find a therapist who can work with your insurance provider.
Insurance providers usually have a list of therapists in the area that accept their specific insurance plan, and often offer affordable options for therapy. If it turns out you do not like the therapist they recommended, don’t worry. Give them a call and tell them you were interested but did not enjoy your experience; they will most likely recommend someone else.
This is also a great way to find someone who specializes in your anxiety disorder, for example, if you have OCD they will recommend therapists with experience treating OCD. Failing to contact your insurance provider before making an appointment can lead to hours wasted trying to find a therapist who takes your insurance (it is also important to contact your insurance company in advance in case they have any specific requirements).
What should I ask?
You must look up some general questions about therapy before actually talking to therapists. I know this can seem intimidating at first, but it’s super easy once you get the hang of it. The most common questions are;
- what type of therapy do you practice?
- How often should we meet?
- How long does the average session last?
This will give you an idea of how much therapy will cost you (and if it’s covered by your insurance provider) and also how long it takes for therapy to take effect.
There are also some more personal questions you can ask;
- What is your experience with my condition? (remember to be specific)
- How do you feel I would benefit from therapy?
- Do you have any concerns about working together?
These are all questions that will clear up any doubts you might have about the therapist, which is important if this is your first time meeting someone with anxiety.
There are many types of therapy, such as CBT, interpersonal therapy (IPT), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), family or couples therapy; each therapist is different.
You can ask your insurance provider for a list of therapists in your area who specialize in the therapy you are looking for. The average session lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half (it is important to check with your therapist if you do not know what this means).
Once again, it is important to contact your insurance provider to see if this is covered by your insurance plan.
Things to avoid when looking for a therapist for an anxiety disorder
Avoid therapists who take a ‘one size fits all approach and try to convince you that they can cure your anxiety.
Every person with anxiety is different, hence why it is important to look for therapists who specialize in specific disorders such as GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), OCD, Social Anxiety Disorder, or Panic Disorder. You can also ask them what their experience is with this as well as look up their credentials on a reputable website like Psychology Today or Good Therapy.
You should also avoid therapists who try to convince you that they are always right and you are always wrong. This may be hard to tell at the beginning of your first session, but if you feel like they are trying to convince or belittle you in the slightest, it is best to leave.
Avoid therapists who try to convince you that anxiety is ‘all in your head’ and not real. Your mental health comes before anything else, so find someone who will take this just as seriously as you do. This will ensure that you work together to manage your disorder healthily and effectively which will ultimately lead to an improvement in your day-to-day life.
Avoid therapists who are not accepting of your preferred ways of coping with your anxiety. Everyone has their way of dealing with things, whether that be through supplementation, medication or special breathing techniques etc., these are all valid methods in treating GAD.
Lastly, do not let any negative experiences hold you back from giving it another go. You may have to meet with several different therapists before you find the right one for you, so don’t give up. You mustn’t expect any results straight away. Therapy takes time, and if it was easy then everyone would be doing it (and we know that is not the case). Just because you have a session every other week, it does not mean that you will be cured by the end of these sessions. So please do not expect this to happen.
Finding a therapist to help you manage your anxiety is not easy, and sometimes it can seem like you will never find the right person. Just remember that there are many different therapists out there, and they have all been trained to help people with anxiety. Understanding your anxiety is key to managing it, so finding the right person for you is one of the first steps towards developing coping mechanisms.
It can be helpful if you ask friends and family members who they would recommend (and why) as well as online forums where people with your specific issues post their experiences or recommendations. So keep going until you find the one that is right for you.