You discovered it’s time in your relationship to look for some additional help moving past some challenges in your relationship and moving toward what you always dreamed it could be. You and your partner made the decision to start couples therapy, and now the daunting task of trying to find a couples therapist stands before you! How do you find a couples therapist? Where do you start your search?
Here are five questions to ask when searching for a couples therapist:
1. Are you looking for a therapist who specializes in couples therapy?
This is an important question to ask as you begin your search for a couples therapist. Providing couples therapy is complex and challenging, which is reflected in how the vast majority of therapists only see individual clients and not couples. Some estimate only 12% of therapists provide therapy for couples. Within that 12% there are many therapists that are more generalist than specialist who see both individual clients and couples with a variety of presenting issues and goals for therapy. Then, there are the therapists who specialize in couples therapy. The generalist and the specialist can both be helpful for a couple, but there are clear advantages to seeking out a therapist that specializes in couples therapy.
Those who specialize in couples therapy benefit from advanced training with specific strategies focused on assisting couples in reaching the goals they have for their relationship. This advanced training emphasizes working with the relationship between partners and the dynamics that a relational system creates. Therapists who specialize in couples therapy also benefit from the experience that comes from working with many couples. Just like most areas in life, if you want to be an expert at something you need to spend a lot of time doing that "something." The therapist that specializes in couples therapy benefits from years of working with couples. This experience can translate into an expertise for a therapist that ultimately benefits you. You and your partner directly benefit from someone who has advanced training in couples therapy as well as someone who has worked with a lot of couples. When beginning your search for a couples therapist it can be helpful to make the decision to seek out a therapist who specializes in couples therapy and conduct your search accordingly.
2. Does the therapist feel like a good fit when viewing a prospective couples therapist's website?
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of your search for a couples therapist is if they feel like a good fit for you and your partner. One way to start to make an initial assessment is to take some time and read through their website. The website may include the approach to couples therapy they use, a FAQ section, and the bios of the therapists that work at that practice. Does the website feel warm and inviting? Do they describe their approach in a way that a non-therapist can relate to or is it full of technical terms? Do you feel like they describe what you are looking for with couples therapy? When you read the therapist’s bio do you feel like they would be someone you would like to work with? Once you feel like you are comfortable enough to move forward after this initial assessment then you can take the next step to contact them to request more information, ask questions, or request an appointment. Even as you attend your first appointment or two it is okay to continue to assess for whether or not the therapist is a good fit for you and your partner. You can discuss this amongst yourselves between sessions, and even ask your therapist more informed questions as you settle into the professional relationship you are looking for from a couples therapist.
3. Are you looking for a therapist you can see in-person at their office or online via Telehealth?
This is an important question to ask as you consider the advantages and challenges of traveling to a therapist's office for therapy or connecting with them online for therapy over the internet. Answering this question will help you decide if overcoming the logistical challenges of commuting, scheduling, and restricting your search for couples therapists in a radius that you can drive to outweigh the benefits of connecting with a couples therapist online. A large benefit of an online couples therapist is the ability to widen your search for a therapist beyond your local area and increases the chances you will locate a therapist who specializes in couples therapy. For example, your search for "couples therapy near me" just widened to "couples therapy in North Carolina." Any therapist licensed in North Carolina can provide therapy to anyone physically located in the state over the internet. Another strong benefit is your commute for your appointment turns into walking to a private room in your home instead of driving to your therapist's office as you battle traffic across town. Not only can you connect with your therapist from your home, but you can also connect with your therapist in a private place of your choosing.
4. How important are payment options to you?
How you plan to pay for couples therapy, and your investment in your relationship, is another variable that can influence a search for a couples therapist. Payment options tend to land on a spectrum of the therapist filing claims directly to your insurance company for you, to paying a co-pay, to paying upfront and the therapist providing a document for you to file with your insurance company for reimbursement, to paying completely out of pocket. Generally speaking, the more specialized the therapist is the more they tend to request payment for therapy at the time of the appointment and provide an option to provide you with a document to request reimbursement from your insurance company if you so choose. The more generalized a therapist is with the type of clients they see the more they may tend to file your insurance claim for you. Although not always the case, it seems that options for paying for therapy can be influenced by how specialized a therapist is and may be directly associated with their expertise in the field.
5. How responsive is your prospective couples therapist as you start to correspond with them?
Lastly, as you begin corresponding with your prospective couples therapist it is important to take note on how responsive they are to your emails and phone calls. A best practice for therapists is to return email and phone calls in one business day. How well do they meet this standard? If they return your email or phone call in a reasonable amount of time they may be modeling what to expect as you become one of your clients. However, if they are not as responsive as you might hope perhaps they may not be as responsive as you would like when you become one of their clients. Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule, but considering the responsiveness of your prospective couples therapist as you make your inquiry with them may be helpful in finding a good fit.
These are just five questions to ask when wondering how to find a couples therapist. What other questions would you add to this list?