What's the best way to find a good therapist (or doctor)?
September 28, 2010 8:52 AM   Subscribe

What's the best way to find a good therapist (or doctor)?

My girlfriend and I are both looking into seeing psychiatrists/psychologists for our various issues. In particular, she has a phobia that she's looking to overcome, and I'm looking to deal with general depression, unhappiness, and malaise. The problem we're facing, though, is how to go about finding therapists.

I can get a list of therapists that are covered by my health insurance, but I don't want to just randomly pick someone out of the list and go to them. In my girlfriend's case, she wants to find someone who specifically deals with phobias, and her insurance company's site doesn't really specify at all. We both tried calling our insurance companies to see if they had any sort of data on hand to help us out, but that came up really short as well.

I found ratemds.com and it seems like an okay site, but there are no ratings for doctors in my immediate area. Are there other sites around that I just haven't found? Organizations that collect this sort of data? We live in NYC, if that matters. Personal recommendations would be good too, I guess, but I'm also sort of looking to learn any sort of skill on how to find a doctor. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You can call the doctors and ask them questions like do they have experience with phobias and what sort of techniques/methods they use before making an appointment. You may also be able to make a short, introductory-type appointment with a psychiatrist/psychologist to meet them and see if you like them.
posted by brainmouse at 9:02 AM on September 28, 2010

Call your primary care physician and ask for a recommendation.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:16 AM on September 28, 2010

NYC has a bunch of great therapists. You might check for people who are affiliated with Payne Whitney at NY Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia-Presbyterian (there's a center near the Apple store in midtown), St. Luke's, and NYU. There's also the William Alanson White Institute and the Albert Ellis Institute. Both are good places to call for recommendations.

I have a few specific names and numbers I'd be happy to share with you, if you want to MeMail me, but start with Payne Whitney and the institutes -- there are a lot of psychiatrists and psychologists who work with them.
posted by brina at 9:36 AM on September 28, 2010

Do ask your PCP for recommendations, and if you have friends or family nearby that are aware of your issues, ask them if they know of anyone. You both have ideas of what you would like to work on, so that will definitely help you narrow your options, but you will have to basically go down the list and make a lot of phone calls. When you're making phone calls, if you speak to someone who doesn't meet your qualifications, ask them if they know of anyone who does. Check online for support groups for your specific issues in your area--there should be some in NYC--they may have information on doctors. And once you've found a doctor, if you go to a couple of appointments and feel like it's not the right fit, that's okay. You can find another doctor. Sometimes it takes a few tries to find a good fit. Any good doctor will understand that.

I have been going to therapists for a number of years, and while I've often been constrained by transportation and financial issues in my selections, this is how I'd go about it if I had complete freedom. Good luck to you both!
posted by Fui Non Sum at 9:39 AM on September 28, 2010

I found a great therapist by asking an on-line support group for people dealing with the same crap I was.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:03 AM on September 28, 2010

In my opinion (full disclosure: I'm a therapist), there are a few good ways to find a therapist in the United States.

- If you have insurance and want to use it (and fully understand the implications of doing so), check your insurance company's list of providers, pick a few near the area you want, and then google them individually. Most therapists WILL NOT be on sites like RateMyDoctor because it's more focused on MDs. If there's *any* info available on them (from a website of theirs, to info on a malpractice case), it will probably help inform your decision. A lot of therapists have websites or at least profiles on online therapist directories, these days. If they don't, you can consider whether it's worth it to you to try them out sight unseen.

- Another good method is to look within the professional organizations for your state. In CA, for example, there are the Board of Psychology and the Board of Behavioral Sciences that regulate licensure for mental health professionals, but there are also orgs that basically regulate professional standards and ethics, like the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and the California Psychological Association. CAMFT, for example, has an online therapist-finder website where all members of the org are listed, and you can get an idea of who might be around your area AND affiliated with the org (and if a therapist isn't a member of local regulatory orgs like that, it's... weird). Then, once you have an idea of who might be near you, you can find out more about each therapist by googling them or looking them up on the Psychology Today therapist directory. Therapists who have websites want to be clear about who they are so that you can be informed about choosing them. I think this is a pretty important take-home point--a therapist who wants to be transparent about the ways they work, specific about the modalities and theoretical backgrounds they use, and perhaps even to be clear on how much they're aware of new/emerging research and information, will do her/his best to communicate that. The opposite will become apparent, too.

- Sites like Psychology Today's therapist finder can be really helpful, but they are generally populated by private-practice therapists. That's not to say that they will all only be super expensive (many therapists in private practice have sliding scale rates), but it's something to take into account.

- Low-cost or free treatment that is subsidized by government at the federal, state, or county level for people who qualify is also available pretty much everywhere. Places to start would be at the Department of Mental Health (or equivalent) for your local county, or with the SAMHSA mental health services locator here: http://store.samhsa.gov/mhlocator

- In general, I agree that asking your MD for a referral could be helpful, but most MDs aren't super aware of the range of mental health services or how to refer to someone who specializes in particular areas, so their referrals could be limited to people they know personally. Also beware of referrals straight to psychiatrists, unless you're suicidally depressed or experiencing some kind of psychotic symptoms.
posted by so_gracefully at 10:39 AM on September 28, 2010 [5 favorites]

If you go to your doctor for a recommendation, it's helpful to create a shortlist yourself first - pick 5 or 6 from your insurance company's list who are located near you and seem promising, then ask the doctor to narrow it down to one or two.

I've had good luck googling names from my insurance company's lists too - many practices have websites with profiles and bios, and they'll list specialties there.
posted by ella wren at 2:32 PM on September 28, 2010

2nd Psychology Today's therapist finder :)
posted by Lukenlogs at 6:49 PM on September 28, 2010

I could recommend some if you want to MeMail me.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:57 AM on September 29, 2010

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