Having trouble finding a therapist in the Seattle area? here are a few tips

Almost everyone has experienced some sort of disruption in their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it’s isolation, job loss, working or learning from home, illness or death among family and friends.

These challenges have led to an increase in the demand for consulting services. As Washington State strives to provide sufficient access to mental health care for its residents, pathways exist for those seeking therapy and treatment.

Some people think “my life is so fucked up. I don’t think there’s anyone who can help me or anywhere I can go,” said Seattle counselor and psychologist Carolyn Scott Brown. But “there are organizations that are truly committed to helping people realize that change is possible and that there is help available.”

Although the search may seem daunting, therapists across the state have shared their tips for finding a provider that makes individuals feel comfortable and meets their needs.

“There are as many types of therapists as there are people,” said Allora Tvedt, a relational psychodynamic therapist in Seattle.

The Mental Health Project is a Seattle Times initiative focused on coverage of mental and behavioral health issues. It is funded by Ballmer Group, a national organization focused on the economic mobility of children and families. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over the work produced by this team.

Basic terminology

Start your search for mental health care by knowing who you are looking for. “Therapist” and “counsellor” are interchangeable terms, said Lesli Desai, a clinical social worker who offers individual, couple and family therapy in Seattle.

The acronyms behind a mental health professional’s name generally indicate that they have received a degree, completed training, passed a test, meet ethical and licensing requirements, and are in good standing with Washington State. . Some examples of acronyms are LICSW, which stands for Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, and LMFT, which stands for Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.

Suppliers with an A in their title, such as LACSW, are associates. “A lot of times they’re incredibly knowledgeable and very good at what they do. They just haven’t finished the process yet,” Desai said. Sometimes that means their rates are lower. However, obtaining a provisional license may mean that associates cannot accept insurance.

Life coaches generally work from personal experiences and often do not have the same clinical training as licensed counselors or the responsibility of a regulatory body.

Generally, in Washington, if you want a treatment plan that includes medication management and therapy, you’ll need to seek out both a counselor and a psychiatrist. Psychologists deal with emotional and mental needs and deal with behavioral patterns; psychiatrists are doctors licensed to prescribe medication as a form of treatment.

where to watch

Your primary care provider can provide referrals and recommendations as a starting point. Several online databases also exist: PsychologyToday.com contains a national directory of therapists. You can sort by distance, insurers and gender among other categories. Other directories include TherapyDen.com, OpenPathCollective.org and GoodTherapy.org and, locally, SeattleCounseling.org.

Some directories maintain lists of vendors that specialize in serving people of color and LGBTQ+ people. These include MultiCulturalCounselors.org, AyanaTherapy.com, InnoPsych.com, GLMA.org, and IngersollGenderCenter.org. Seattle therapist Canh Tran maintains a list of queer, trans, black, indigenous and color therapists on her website.

Insurers are also supposed to keep an up-to-date list of the providers they cover and call clients who have trouble finding counselors, said Geralyn Peterson, a licensed mental health counselor at Puyallup. However, these lists are sometimes out of date.

Insurance companies can also grant out-of-network exemptions in some cases, Desai said. Make sure you get a call reference number in case you have a billing problem or your claim is denied.

Places of worship, friends and family can also provide trusted referrals, Brown said.

For example, “If you know someone else of color who has worked with a program or a social worker or a psychologist, and it made a big difference in their life, that can be a big help,” he said. she declared.

People with low incomes and those on Medicaid can find mental health resources through community care systems such as Sound Health in King County, Compass Health in Snohomish, Skagit, Island, San Juan, and Whatcom counties. , Valley Cities in Kent and Frontier Behavioral Health in Spokane.

Give a hand

Once you’ve identified a few therapists you’re interested in, you can usually find their contact information and preferred method of contact in directories or on their website.

When emailing, keep the reason for your request for therapy concise, Peterson said. Indicate the dates and times when you are available, your insurer if you have one and, briefly, any important information for you.

For example, you might mention dealing with stress and anxiety related to life changes, including a breakup with a long-term partner. You can also add that you smoke marijuana or cigarettes every day and don’t want to quit, or have a strong belief in a certain religion or belief, or have military training.

Questions to ask

Most therapists offer free consultation calls that last between 15 and 30 minutes. Calls are an opportunity to ask questions, share a bit more about what you’re looking for, find out what kind of therapy the provider uses, and hear their voice — whether you find it soothing or grating, Desai said.

The most important question potential clients may ask clinicians is what a typical session looks like. Some therapists use mindfulness and meditation; some give homework and reading. Others practice skills in sessions; some focus on identifying trauma in the body.

Therapists also vary in their degree of direction and orientation, with some leading the conversation while others sit, listen and validate experiences, Peterson said. Most can choose and merge practices based on each client’s needs. As a patient, you may want to consider whether you are looking to vent, understand yourself better, or hope for solution-focused suggestions for change.

Another way to approach this question is to ask what modalities – or formations that inform their work – a therapist uses. Two of the most popular modalities are CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, and DBT, dialectical behavior therapy, Tvedt said. Forms of therapy are similar, but CBT focuses on using logic to address specific goals while DBT focuses on managing emotions and how a patient interacts with themselves and others. .

During your consultation call, you’ll also want to ask about the advisor’s schedule availability and how often they prefer to meet with clients. If you only have time once a month, a weekly cadence of sessions may not work.

Seattle Times mental health resources

Confirm during your call if the provider accepts your insurance and if there is a co-pay amount. You can also learn about telehealth options and check with your insurance company to see if online therapy is covered.

If you are concerned about cost, you can also inquire about sliding scale options. Many therapists keep sessions open to clients who must pay less than the standard rate. These determinations are made at the discretion of the provider.

Each counselor should be able to largely set aside their own belief system and work with a client’s worldview, Peterson said. However, for people of color, people of faith, women, LGBTQ+ people, and other marginalized groups, this call is an opportunity to ensure that the therapist can understand and work with your life experiences and your needs. A sample question might include: “What cultural competency training have you received?” »


If you’re having trouble finding an available therapist, persistence is key, Desai said.

“Keep calling, keep leaving messages, keep trying new people and new numbers,” Desai said.

Create a list of therapists you might want to work with and follow up with them about every six weeks. Availability can change very quickly when a customer moves or takes a break, Peterson said. “I may have no openings and then the next week three of my clients decide they’re done and all of a sudden I have three openings.”

It’s also okay to tell a therapist something isn’t working, Peterson said, or to move on and try someone else.

“You can say, ‘You don’t give me ideas, and I really came here for some ideas,'” Peterson said. “Or you can say, ‘You keep giving me ideas, and I really need to let off steam.'”

We would love to hear from you.

The mental health project team is listening. We’d love to know what questions you have about mental health and what stories you would suggest we cover.

Contact us at [email protected]

Comments are closed.