How to Find a Therapist

img_6155On a daily basis, my assistant and I receive the following email: “Can you recommend a therapist in my area who is familiar with your work?”

Sadly, I don’t have a database of like-minded therapists, and, even more sadly, I know that many therapists fall into the “doubt means don’t” mindset and end up creating more anxiety for their already anxious clients. As such, I can understand the reluctance to start therapy with someone who could very well tell you to walk away from your loving, honest, trustworthy, like-minded partner as soon as you hint at doubt.

However, I do have some concrete suggestions for how you can avoid falling onto the couch of an uninformed therapist and hopefully find someone who can help walk you through your relationship anxiety (and anxiety in general). For there can be no doubt that we’re not meant to do this work alone, and if you have the resources and impulse to seek help, I encourage you to search until you find a skilled and compassionate therapist who can guide you through your dark night.

While there is no formula for finding a great therapist, here are some general guidelines that might help you in your search:

  1. Ask about Doubt: If you’re struggling with relationship anxiety, ask the diagnostic question, “What is your opinion about the part that doubt plays in a relationship?” If they respond that “doubt means don’t”, you know he or she is not the therapist for you. Keep in mind that even if a therapist hasn’t been specifically trained in relationship anxiety (as most therapist haven’t), that doesn’t mean they can’t guide you toward moving through your doubt and arriving at more clarity.
  2. Shop Around: It’s unrealistic to expect that the first therapist you call will be a match. Don’t hesitate to speak with three or four therapists by phone (if they’re willing) to determine which one might be able to create a safe place for you. Many therapists offer a 10-minute free phone consultation to help both of you determine if you could be a good fit.
  3. Trust Yourself: As you sit with different therapists, listen for the quiet voice of intuition that lives inside of you. When you can access your place of wisdom, searching for a therapist can be a great exercise in self-trust! I know “intuition” is a charged word when you’re struggling with relationship anxiety. Please read this post for more clarity on the difference between intuition and anxiety.
  4. Look for an Open Mind: As the concepts that I teach aren’t generally taught in graduate school, it can be helpful to find a therapist who is open to reading about my work. Many of my blog readers have brought my articles and e-course ideas to their therapist, and, if the therapist is open, they can incorporate these concepts into their work together. In general, you will want a therapist who is open to new ideas (whether mine or someone else’s), as a therapist with a closed mind doesn’t bode well for the healing process.

You should also have a sense that the therapist has done and/or is currently engaged with their own inner work, as evidenced by a sense of humility and a willingness to be vulnerable. A therapist who acts like they have it all figured out is unlikely going to be able to guide you effectively. I’m always amazed by how many therapists have never been to therapy themselves, and how many graduate program for counseling psychology don’t require that their students obtain a certain number of hours of personal therapy. How can you guide others through their dark tunnels and labyrinths if you’ve been too scared or unwilling to walk the inner pathways of your own psyche?

Above all, keep in mind that a good therapist-client relationship grows over time (like all relationships). Yes, they need to understand that doubt does not always mean doubt and they need to be skilled at their practice. But the most essential qualities are the ones that must exist in all healthy relationships: presence of heart, the ability to listen closely, and the willingness to learn.

Charlie Bloom, in 101 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Married, describes it beautifully:

At its best, psychotherapy creates a warm and understanding relationship through which we face ourselves and our feelings honestly in a way that allows us to heal from past wounds and accept ourselves as we are. It is the therapist’s very being, rather than their philosophy or orientation, that promotes this process. The best therapists are not distinguished by their degrees or credentials, but by their ability to extend themselves nonjudgmentally with openness, authenticity, and compassion. One doesn’t lean these qualities in graduate school but instead cultivates them through deliberate choice and life experience.

In other words, it’s love that heals, both in and out the therapist’s office. If you find someone who leads with a warm heart, an open mind, a dose of humility, and a true desire to serve, you will have found a gift of a human, indeed.
***
If you have worked with a local therapist who has helped you with your relationship anxiety and/or anxiety in general and you feel comfortable sharing his or her name here, please do so.

55 comments to How to Find a Therapist

  • JR

    Joni Downs (www.drjonidowns.com) in Menomonee Falls, WI (near Milwaukee, WI) helped me on and off for several years. I had seen two therapists prior, one who retired, and one who did not work well for me. I probably would not be in the loving relationship I’m in, and in graduate school pursuing the career I desire, without her guidance. She definitely understands self-trust and doubt issues. I also referred her to a friend going through a divorce. The friend had been to several therapists and really liked Joni a lot. I recommend her wholeheartedly.

  • Newly Married

    Perfect timing for that because I m about to start seeing a therapist. Thank you!

  • Clara

    Thank you for this Sheryl. When I have finally complete my post-graduate studies in psychology, I hope to be able to be one of the therapists to whom you can confidently refer people.

    I had a tangentially related question: why do you think it is that the myths about relationships and love (e.g. when you have found the right one you just know, when you have found the right one your relationship will be easy, doubt means don’t, the best indicator of future success in a relationship is if you feel head-over-heels inspired and certain in the first few months, love is a feeling that you shouldn’t have to work at etc etc…) continue to abound in our culture when it simply cannot be that many or any people’s experience is consistent with them? How is it that these false beliefs are so resilient when almost all lives must prove them wrong at some point. How can we all be operating under and perpetuating this collective delusion, when individual experience would point to a different truth?

    Would really love your thoughts on this. Thank you, Sheryl!

    • I cannot wait until I can refer people to you, Clara!

      As far as your question, we could ask the same thing about so many of our concepts, structures, and systems that we KNOW don’t work and yet continue to believe in. It’s difficult to uproot an old system, even one we know fails, and step into a new paradigm.

  • Tori

    I found an amazing therapist I would love to share.

    Fiona O’Farrell
    Adaptive Counseling
    Seattle, WA

    She has been absolutely amazing through my engagement and into my marriage. She was so open when I brought the work from Sheryl’s website and lessons and encouraged me to continue reviewing the course as well as quotes or lessons that stood out. She has also given me endless resources, books, even TV shows to watch that show more realistic relationships (Catastrophe on Amazon).

    You can Google her or Adaptive Counseling and find her website.

  • Jumana Grassi

    I am a therapist and I strongly believe in this work. Struggling myself with anxiety (in relationship and in general) I have often questioned the difference between my intuition and my fear. Sheryls work, along with my own therapeutic experiences, have allowed me to understand that doubt does not always mean don’t, and different techniques in differentiating the two.

    I work in Brooklyn and New York, New York.

  • Megan Nash

    I certainly can relate to this post! When I went through graduate school, 8 entered my first serious relationship and immediately stumbled into a huge ravine of relationship anxiety. I’m talking, “limbs shaking, can’t get out of bed anxiety. I was panicked. Finding a good therapist was imperative. I also am now a therapist and I rely on your work heavily with my clients who have anxiety of all types. Self-trust and doubt and self-care are vital to my work with people now. I work in a Edmond, Oklahoma. If anyone in this area should need recommendations for a good therapist, please feel free to email me: meganmnash16@gmail.com. I can point you in any number of directions and your work most certainly doesn’t have to be with me. Just find someone you feel comfortable with and also challenged by. You don’t want a yes man or woman for a therapist. You want someone who will love you, and reparent you through this crisis. And will eventually guide you home to yourself.

  • Birdie515

    Erin Nes, LMFT (erinlneslmft@gmail.com)! She is an individual counselor but is also trained in EFT couples therapy. She’s located right outside of Washington, D.C.

  • Caitlin

    I’ve seen a variety of therapists, and up until now, therapy felt like it was just a place I could “vent” and get perspective. The therapist I see now helped me truly heal. Part of it is the person she is, but a huge part also seems to be the type of therapy she practices – advanced integrative therapy. There also seems to be a lot of overlap with Sheryl’s work. Here’s the site where you can find a therapist in your area: http://www.aitherapy.org/wp/find-an-ait-therapist/ Hang in there. Being married for 3 years now (and following Sheryl’s work for 4), I’m so happy I didn’t let fear have the last say. And the anxiety, as Sheryl says, is truly a gift. I know it’s so hard (at least it was for me), but just try to be patient, gentle, and kind to yourself until the gift reveals itself. Sending love to everyone who is in the throws of it xoxo

  • Thank you, all, for your willingness to share your referrals!

  • moon1978

    Hi Sheryl! I’m a psychotherapist too and I think of your work (and the work I’ve done on myself as a result of your programs) often as I’m sitting with clients. I’ve actually wondered if you’ve ever thought about creating a training program for therapists who would like to bring more of the ideas you share into their work. I would so love to become a certified “Conscious Transitions” therapist if you ever created such a certification! Thank you so much for the work you do! P.S. I am in Jungian analysis and find that my therapist/analyst is able to hold the complexities of the relationship anxiety I feel…so grateful for this.

    • Yes, I will likely create a certification program one day. I’m in the midst of creating two new courses for 2017-18, and then I’ll likely focus on the certification program. xo

  • Thank you for this and your many insightful posts! I am a psychotherapist in Los Angeles and I find Sheryl’s perspectives and approach deeply resonant and healing. My journey with my own personal anxiety, trauma, and parenting have led me to fill my tool box with a variety of modalities that compliment traditional talk therapy and have led to a holistic experience of healing. Thank you, Sheryl for including the soul, mind, and body in your posts. If anyone is in LA and interested in a free consultation with me call: 818 287-0832

  • agnes

    This is a really great guide, thank you. I have worried about not being able to find a therapist whose work aligns with all the work I have done here; should I ever need therapy again. For now I feel able to do this alone -with your wonderful guidance, of course.

    I spiked at ‘the quiet voice of intuition’ as I have noticed that my bad thoughts aren’t as loud as they used to be. They used to scream and give me headache. They still follow the same line as the typical thoughts/questions you write about, but they’re spoken in a quiet, reasonable-seeming voice and feel true…though I know that while imperfect, my partner is a good one and in the best of times life with him is blissful. Does this sound like my intuition talking?

  • Kim

    Esther Dawney-New. Bath, UK.

    I started seeing a new therapist a few weeks ago. When I mentioned my doubts and fears, she quickly asked me about the possibility of self sabotage and exploring my own fears and feelings for wanting to run. She is a relationship therapist and very warm, attentive and approachable. I’m excited about finding more about myself with her.

  • ncmountaingirl

    For those of you in the US, this may be a helpful resource: http://openpathcollective.org – particularly if cost is a possible barrier. Hope it helps!! Sending love and light.

  • B

    I have found Beverly Harper to have been ana amazing support who lost I have been facing relationship anxiety.
    Non judgemental and very open to different concepts. She has provided me with resources using cognitive behaviour therapy. I feel I have a really good bond with her and feel in a safe environment when I talk to her! If anyone is in/around London or Bath UK. Have a look on her web page. Sheryl I just have to say that your website has been there for me in many times when I felt completely lost. Your blogs calm me and help me re focus to push on through another day. I am so grateful to everyone on this page for all your comments, they make me feel less alone and in contact with people who know exactly what I am going through! Thank you to all of you! Xx

  • Ashley

    I’m throwing this out there just in case: Does anyone know of a good relationship anxiety therapist that lives in Miami, FL? If I find one, I’ll post their name on here.

  • Hi Sheryl,
    I’m a psychotherapist offering online therapy in New York, Texas, Idaho and Colorado. I both benefit personally from your work, and refer clients to your blog on a regular basis. I work with millennials and find that many of them struggle with relationship anxiety and dealing with doubts and expectations of perfect romance. I would also love a certification program if you ever offer one in the future! I am so thankful for your voice in the world and love sharing your wisdom.
    Best,
    Tara Ryan, LCSW
    http://www.tararyanlcsw.com

  • Francine

    I’m sorry this is unrelated but I’m struggling again and having some very uncomfortable realisations. Since the Summer I’ve been feeling really good and like I’d really had a breakthrough with the work, until a couple of months ago. I’m trying to keep up with it as my head is getting foggy again and I’m forgetting all I’ve learned, but while reading about real love I am upset that the good feelings I’ve been having over the last few months are again based on a false idea of love. Perhaps since my anxiety eased my partner’s ‘in love’ feelings settled and I became the pursuer in the pursuer-distancer dynamic. I’m worried and disappointed this may be the case. I really thought I’d accessed real love and clarity. I feel so daunted by all the work I have ahead of me. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do it. Sorry for posting about something unrelated. I really need some guidance.

  • Elizabeth

    Hi Francine,

    I have been going in and out of this cycle of clarity and fogginess for three years. Its not pretty and its hard. I was recently on the brink of giving up but then I couldn’t help but realise that healing and growth is cyclical, not linear. It goes around in spirals, not in straight lines. You feel horrid and then you feel great and want to definatly continue, marry have a family, create together and then it gets really grey again and you fall. Then you climb out again, gather your tenants and continue, each time with a new grain of wisdom and another layer of healing to pass through. I read Sheryl’s article on the cycle of healing/relapses and it really helped me recently when I almost gave up! It sounds like you are really trapped in the intellectual reasoning of your feelings at the moment and that is so understandable in the grips of fear! But the intellect is just one aspect of a complex self! http://conscious-transitions.com/the-cycle-of-healing/ LoVE and strength to you Francine 🙂

    • Francine

      Elizabeth, thank you so much for taking the time to respond. Your comment was a little ray of hope. I’m feeling much stronger than I was a few hours ago. I suppose the more times I go through this cycle, the more I can build confidence in coming out the other side. As you say in the times of clarity, there is such a wonderful feel to life and our relationship and I can definitely see us building a life and a family. I am doing a lot of projecting again and not taking responsibility for myself. My resistance is highly active lately. I will try the meditation, thank you 🙂 Merry Christmas and blessings to you xoxo

  • Elizabeth

    Also this meditation is great when you are trapped in anxious thoughts and reasoning. Steal an hour away, lie down comfortably and float 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vx8iUvfyCY. PS I Sheryl I hope you dont mind me posting a youtube link here…

  • Katelyn

    I had an appointment with a therapist but was scared of what they would say. So thank you for this. I struggle with all kind of thoughts but some hurt more than others. It’s also crazy how badly I believe them and think I need to act on every single one of them. It’s scary. I usually don’t know if I love him or want to be with him but I keep believing I do. Some days are SO much better than other and I try to let the good weigh the bad out. I have a problem with thinking it’s God speaking to me but after reading and finding your website I believe it’s anxiety. ❤

  • Hannah

    Hi Sheryl, this isn’t about finding a therapist so hopefully it’s okay to comment.

    I had anxiety from a few months into my relationship because I quickly realised it would turn into marriage. I know on the forum we try not to say things like I knew he was the one but I really did have that feeling pretty quickly, perhaps because our relationship started out different. I joined here and my anxiety has dropped so much, I’ve really learnt to trust myself and understand real love. Thanks to you and the forum moderators! 2 days ago my lovely man proposed to me! I said yes. I have had such a whirlwind of emotions. I’m not judging them though, I know that it’s all normal. I wouldn’t of known that if it wasn’t for you!

    I am definitely over whelmed and scared because it is such a big step. It’s a huge thing. I’m scared to plan it all. It doesn’t feel real. It feels very surreal and knowing that I will be planning it soon scares the crap out of me. With the all tools I have learnt from here I have figured out it’s mainly because it is such a daunting adult thing, I also hate people looking at me aswell, so this will not be fun lol. This is something I’ve always wanted and spoke about with my man for a long time and now it’s here I’m scared.

    What is your best advice for me at the moment? I would appreciate any advice. Thankyou 🙂

    • Keep doing the work, Hannah. Let the feelings in: the grief, the fear, the uncertainty. Recognize that the fear of the planning is usually a cover-up for the fear of the transition – which means taking this next, huge leap into adulthood. And underlying the fear is the grief of letting go of this stage of your life and entering, officially now, into the separation/death stage of your transition.

  • A

    Does anxiety ALWAYS manifest itself in physical symptoms? At the beginning of my relationship anxiety I definitely had those symptoms. Then anxiety left for a while, now it’s back but seems to be less ‘violent’. I still have the deep down sense of ‘don’t leave’ though. Thank you for another wonderful post.

    • agnes

      Hey A, this is a big question for me too. I have a hard time identifying my anxiety unless it is extreme & showing itself through very clear physical symptoms – tingly hands and legs; tummy ache; a sense of dread. I think (though I might be wrong) Sheryl says in her post ‘Anxiety Blocks Connection’ that Anxiety shape-shifts but is generally defined as a head-space. So I suppose, when the mind starts to chatter more so than usual, it’s time to step in.

      The difficulty for me is that I am medicated for anxiety so it’s hard for me to detect it for sure when it starts to creep back in. I only realise it’s happening when the dial turned right up to high. I am coming off my medication after 3 years this coming Spring and I’m curious to see what it will be like doing this inner work without it.

      I’m really unsure about this and I’d be interested to see Sheryl talk more about the symptoms of anxiety. My god, we do ask a lot of her don’t we. I hope that helps! x

  • Newly Married

    I been diagnosed with Bipolar type II yesterday I went to a psyche eval and ptsd, I am kind of feeling strange I have already cried when they told me I could be once, so now its just kind of accepting it. It is not severe the way I have it as they are giving me 20 mg geodon and I am very high functional person but my emotions and specially anger was taking over my life and relationship.
    I do feel better with the medication and I will still go to therapy, if anyone has a insight of this, maybe is it a calling, or some feedback I would love to hear about it.
    God Bless

  • Newly Married

    My husbands ex send me a message about two months ago saying a lot of things and were very hurtful and she seemed so true about them but one thing she said too was that my husband then boyfriend was looking for her when him and i were dating already trying to get back with her and i remember my husband telling me that she was texting him and i didnt say nothing at the time but then he said that he had lied that she never texted him that he made it up, now a two years later she sends me that message saying that he had been looking for her, I dont know who to believe anymore specially when he made up so many things for his jealousy games, I feel sometimes like he had just played with my feelings just like before when we dated back in 2009 and he went back to her, I feel so overwhelmed and angry and hateful towards him that is affecting out marriage.
    He is a good guy and everything but I honestly dont know anymore if he is been honest or if she was honest.

  • Newly Married

    its affecting my emotions and I was just diagnosed with bipolar type II and put me on meds because of my panic attacks and anxiety and with that message she sent made things even wose since that happened in september to the point that I feel rage uncontrollable rage that meds were needed because I dont reason.
    My husband says she is lying its not true and that nothing is true but I am scared and i dont know if I can believe him when he would just make up so many things to get me to be jealous he says that I dont know who to believe. I feel played at and makes it so much harder to deal with my rage in a more controlled way.

  • Newly Married

    We went to her house where she lives with another guy already and he guy didnt know she had done that and my husband confronted her about the things she said but didnt mention that he was looking for her and she said nothing but honestly that message spiked me soooooo bad that I feel really bad ever since and my issues got bigger than they already were on top of all the games he made up to get me jealous.

  • Marlene

    Here is the website to my therapist, Nancy Longmire

    http://perceptionrepatterning.weebly.com/session.html

    She has been a great help for me. I know it can help. Her email: perceptionrepatterning@gmail.com

  • Claudia

    For people in Melbourne –
    Kat Hathaway
    Clematis Vic
    AUSTRALIA
    I found her wonderful to work with during my engagement anxiety.

  • Ellen

    Sheryl, I just want to post here to thank you. I’ve been going through the worst phase of my life – my partner is wonderful but he did something that unintentionally hurt me. I ruminated on it so much while he was away for three weeks that it transformed from processing my pain (which I was doing incorrectly), to doubting our relationship and my feelings. It upset me beyond belief. I had anxiety attack after anxiety attack. My life began to revolve around work, crying and sleep. It’s taken me a long time but I’m learning to trust that the incident we had wasn’t what I built it up to be in my head. Even when my anxiety tries to convince me otherwise, I remember his own trauma and his own pain and I know that he is an extremely good person.

    It’s down to your blog that I’ve come to that conclusion. I had counselling for a while and I brought your blog about how anxiety disrupts connection to her. It was a light bulb going off in my head. My wounded self was clinging to the idea that I could’ve lost him and was fuelling my suppressed belief that I wasn’t good enough to be loved.

    I’m in the liminal phase now. I get the intrusive thoughts and instead of making me anxious, they just make me sob – but I’m trying to accept them for what they are. They are just fear and hurt. They are not true because if they were, I wouldn’t still want to move in with him at the end of next year. I’ve even talked to him about it and he understood so perfectly, even if it has spiked his own anxieties occasionally.

    This liminal phase feels the hardest. I have an understanding and a desire to move on but I still feel disconnected from my partner and myself, as well as occasionally my friends and family too. I feel depressed but I’m trying not to judge it.

    The occasional moments of clarity make it worthwhile. They are reminders that I’m on the right track.

    I wish I was able to afford your programmes but alas, I’m a very poor student! But your blog and the comments from others have really helped to guide me through this strange transition. I have been trying to use loving actions to help guide my feelings back to the surface – I occasionally feel something that almost feels like love but extremely numbed. I still feel comfortable holding hands, hugging and kissing. I just wish I could engage properly with him. I still feel like I’m lying sometimes. Is that normal for the liminal phase?

  • Izzie

    I commented on a post a while ago thanking you for your wonderful insight and how your work had inspired me to go back into therapy and work through the problems that my anxiety has been prompting me to deal with. It’s been a good 2 months since my initial assessment and I’m still on a waiting list to see a therapist that might not even be helpful to me, so I decided enough was enough and I’d take matters into my own hands. In the last few weeks I’ve worked my anxious little butt off with intense journaling, meditating, practicing loving action, challenging my anxious thoughts, dealing with my fear compassionately, dedicating every spare moment I have to strengthening my relationship with my wise and loving self- the works. All from your blogs alone! And the work is already paying off. I’m spending more and more of my time with a clear mindset, able to sit comfortably in uncertainty, able to enjoy the things I used to again, and most importantly, feeling more loving and connected to my gorgeous, wonderful boyfriend. Obviously I have a long way to go yet and I’m still set on saving some money for your courses, but the progress is incredibly motivating. Just wanted to thank you again for all your work is doing for me and others, I don’t know where I’d be without it.

  • priscilla

    THANK YOU for this post! i have been in need of therapy for a year and a half now, but have been terrified to find one because the process seem overwhelming, and I was afraid they were going to tell me (or make me realize) I have to leave my wonderful loving partner

    I think you should start a course for therapists! Like a fellowship or postgraduate training! Would def see one who went through your course. Really enjoy the wisdom your forum moderators have to share!

  • Angela

    A good therapist is hard to find. I have seen a several over the years and I find that they follow the book and they lack the experience about life, because they have been taught from textbooks. Thank god there is someone real like yourself Sheryl, who knows how the mind really works. Wishing you and to everyone on this blog..A very Happy Christmas and a Very happy and safe, New Year 🎄🙏😇🍾🍻🍹🍹cheers ❤️️

  • Candee Lovell

    I absolutely love Connie Greenberg, Psychology.

    801 Twelve Oaks Center Drive
    Wayzata, MN 55391
    (763) 476-8244

    I have learned so much from Connie and still am. I always feel comfortable in session whether I’m emotional with sadness, anger, fear, etc. She has a comforting nature and truly cares. She also amazes me about remembering things I mentioned in my first few sessions over five years ago. I’ve had four debilitating anxiety/depression episodes that led me to spiral downward to a darkness I didn’t know how to get out of. I even went through two weeks of outpatient treatment to start getting my mind focused in the right direction. Now I’m with a great man, we have a long distance relationship (200 Miles) and I’m thinking of moving. So here comes the anxiety! Connie also points out the progress I’ve made when I feel I’m still stuck.

    I would at least give her a call to see if she’s a good fit. She definitely leads with love and listens!