How to find a psychotherapist in the East Bay

Posted by on Aug 8, 2017 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on How to find a psychotherapist in the East Bay

Finding a therapist can be a daunting task, especially in an area where there are many to choose from.

First off – if you are in a crisis, call the Alameda County Crisis line at 800 833 2900. They do crisis counseling and can give referrals. It is available 24/7. There is also a special line for teens: text “SAFE” to 839863.

Otherwise, the rest of this article describes what to do if you can take some time to look around.

I’ll suggest a two step process:

  1. Get yourself ready to look.
    • Describe what‘s going on for you.
    • Consider what kind of therapist would suit you
    • Write a list of questions for the therapist.
  2. Search for therapists.
    • Talk to people you know, if you feel comfortable doing so.
    • Do some on line research
    • Call those you want to interview.

      1. Getting ready to look

Logistics – time, place, and money

Sometimes people just choose a therapist by their office location. Of course convenience is important, but if this is your primary criterion, this is probably not the choice that will serve you best! Most therapists prefer to meet with clients on a weekly basis. For this reason you should look at your schedule and your budget to determine how much you can spend and when you are available.


The Affordable Care Act has brought many changes to health care. Contact your insurance company to find out what your co-pay is for in-network providers, and what they reimburse for out of network providers. Don’t think you are covered for mental health? Check again – parity laws require that mental health coverage be on a par with medical coverage.

What to say about yourself, and what questions to ask

Interviewing therapists is hard! You’ll be talking about deeply personal topics with a stranger. It’s usually not necessary to go into extensive detail. Describe your situation, using your own words to say what is causing you to search for a therapist. You don’t need to use psychological jargon or a diagnosis, just what you are experiencing.

Make sure to say who the therapy is for. Do you want couples or family therapy? If you are having issues with your partner, realize that sometimes your individual therapist may or may not work with you as a couple. It’s a good question to ask when you are interviewing the therapist.

Here’s a suggested list of questions to start with. Add your own as needed.

I am looking for a therapist because_____________________ or to help me with_____________________________for (myself/my child/me and my partner?other).  My current situation is________________.

  1. Where is your office?
  2. What are your fees?
  3. Do you take my insurance?
  4. Have you dealt with my problem or issue before?
  5. Can you describe your approach?
  6. Do you have openings?

When you talk to the therapist, pay attention to how you feel as you interact with them. Do they return your call promptly? What’s your impression? Do they seem to understand you? For one reason or another, it may not be a fit. If it’s not, you might consider asking if they can refer you to someone.

It’s perfectly ok to tell the therapist that you are talking to multiple therapists to find out who is the best match for you.

What do all those initials mean?

There are several different types of licenses issued by the state of California that allow the person to practice psychotherapy. They vary in their emphasis, and training, but all have a minimum of a master’s degree and 2 years of internship.

  • MFT or LMFT stands for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. LMFTs provide psychotherapy for individuals, couples, families and groups.  They are trained to look at relationships.
  • LCSW stands for Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  Some social workers provide psychotherapy, and others assist people in accessing social services, or creating social policies.
  • LPCC stands for Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor.  This license is new to the state of California.  LPCCs treat individuals.
  • Clinical Psychologist.
  • PsyD.  This is a doctoral level degree.  Many practice under the LMFT license.
  • M.D. Psychiatrists are medical doctors. They prescribe medication, and some do counseling, but most do not meet clients on a weekly basis.

Therapist’s approach, technique, or training

Therapists are trained in countless theories and techniques, many of which have limited meaning for the lay person.   You may already know that you like one approach more than another.  Most therapists state their approach in their profiles.  If you don’t know what they mean, feel free to ask.  There are big differences between them.

Style of working is also important. Some people like to get to the point, and prefer a goal oriented approach. Other people want or need to explore a bit, and may not be able to describe exactly what they want to achieve in therapy. It may go without being said, but as a client you have a right to choose the person who feels right to you. There is a chemistry between client and therapist, and as a client you serve yourself well when you take some time to talk to a few therapists to be sure of getting the right match.

If you would like further advice on finding a therapist, I highly recommend this podcast episode from the series “The Hilarious World of Depression”.  By the way, the whole series is wonderful.


2 Searching

Start with someone you know

Word of mouth is one good way to find a therapist. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s a confidential profession – people may not want to let you know they see a therapist, and you may not want people to know that you’re looking for one.  Another consideration – the therapist your best friend sees may or may not be a good match for you…but one way to find a therapist is to call one and ask who they might refer you to.

There’s a short cut to the word of mouth method – if you have been seeing a therapist in the past, and no longer see that person, you can ask them for some referrals.

Perhaps a neighbor, or a parent at your child’s school is a therapist. You may want to approach this person to ask them if they can recommend a therapist. Most therapists have a network of professionals they refer to.

You may also have a trusted health professional who refers to a list of psychotherapists.

Searching On Line Therapist directories

The local chapter of CAMFT has an excellent directory that allows you to select on multiple criteria.  Therapists who belong to this professional organization are listed.
CAMFT  state wide directory.
Your insurance company Consult your enrollment package for lists of providers, or go on to the insurance company’s web site.
Trained EMDR Therapists are listed through the EMDR International Association.
Therapists pay a fee to be listed on these sites.

Search engines  Google, Yelp

Look at each therapist’s web site. Jot down notes about the ones you want to follow up with.


It can be hard to make the call.  Choose a time and place when you can speak confidentially.  Most therapists do not have office staff, so be prepared to leave a message.  Give the therapist a few times when you will be available to take their call.

Using the questions you have developed, proceed with the interview.  Pay attention to your emotional and mental response to the conversation.

Good luck and congratulations on taking this important step towards healing!!!