Updated: Jul 9
In our increasingly stressful world, prioritizing our physical and emotional health has never been more important. As a therapist based in Massachusetts, I understand the challenges that individuals face when seeking professional support. In this blog post, I aim to guide stressed-out Bostonians on their journey to finding the right therapist. While the process may be challenging, I assure you that it is undoubtedly worth the effort. Furthermore, I will provide valuable advice on discovering niche or specialized therapists who can cater to your unique needs.
Boston Stress Levels Are At a New High, but You Can Find Relief
The Boston Cambridge and MetroWest area is known as one of the biggest and most important economic engines in the U.S. While this is great for the local economy, many Boston residents work in stressful and highly demanded industries and struggle with work/life balance.
Most are now well aware the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in anxiety and depression rates across ages. Studies and statistics highlight the severity of these mental health challenges. It is crucial to address these issues and recognize the value of therapy as a powerful tool for healing and finding resilience. The 2023 Massachusetts state budget has witnessed perhaps the largest increase ever to help Massachusetts residents with mental health and substance abuse. I invite you to read the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health Annual Report here.
The good news, thanks to its world class training programs and elevated licensure expectations, Boston and Massachusetts in general is a mecca for high quality therapeutic care whether it be from a psychologist, social worker, or mental heath counselor.
Start your research today and get on the right path to feeling happy and healthy.
The Importance of Prioritizing Physical and Emotional Health
Therapy plays a vital role in overall well-being. Seeking professional support offers benefits such as gaining insight, developing coping mechanisms, fostering personal growth, and nurturing self-acceptance and self-compassion. Remember, investing in therapy is investing in yourself. If you’re wondering if therapy is what you need why not call a local therapist and have a short conversation to learn more.
Overcoming the Challenges of Finding the Right Therapist
When searching for a therapist, individuals face common difficulties. The sheer number of choices can be overwhelming, and many are unaware of specialized therapists who can meet their specific needs. It's important not to settle for just any therapist. Tailored support can make a significant difference in your therapy experience. Don't hesitate to explore and find a therapist who truly understands and addresses your unique concerns.
Finding Niche and Specialized Therapists
Boston residents have incredible access to niche or specialized therapists who cater to a variety of specific areas and therapeutic approaches. These therapists have expertise in addressing unique needs. Working with a psychologist who specializes in your concerns offers numerous benefits. Ultimately you want to work with a therapist who can relate to you and your life journey. By seeking therapists who specialize in your needs, you can receive targeted support that aligns with your goals and facilitates more effective progress in therapy. For example, if you have experienced trauma, a therapist trained in trauma-focused therapy can provide specialized techniques to help you heal and overcome its impact on your life. Similarly, therapists that identify as LGBTQ+ and/or are highly knowledgeable with the unique challenges faced by this community can offer a safe and affirming space to navigate your emotions. Other examples include specialists in racial identity, racial trauma, neurodivergence, child therapy, family systems, and couple’s therapy.
There are numerous evidence-based therapeutic approaches that therapists may utilize, and they are growing by the day. Understanding the differences between approaches can feel overwhelming. Below I describe some of the most common:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), for instance, focuses on identifying and modifying negative thought patterns and behaviors to promote positive change. This approach has been found to be highly effective for both children and adults.
Psychodynamic therapy is based on the idea that behavior and mental well-being are rooted in childhood and past experiences. Therapists work with clients to bring conscious awareness of their cognitive, behavioral, and emotional patterns and shift them so they can live a fuller life.
Psychoanalysis is a more intensive form of psychodynamic therapy. Sessions are typically conducted three or more times a week.
Mind-Body/Mindfulness/Self Compassion helps one become increasingly aware of the interaction between your emotional and physical well-being. The focus is on improving present moment awareness, gaining greater control over your anxiety/stress response, challenging negative or unhealthy patterns and replacing them with self-compassion and acceptance.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) integrates CBT, mindfulness, and self-compassion. It emphasizes building coping skills and managing intense emotions. While initially created for individuals with borderline personality disorder or self-destructive behaviors, subsequent research has found it effective in treating a variety of disorders involving emotional regulation difficulties. This approach has been found to be helpful with teens through adults.
Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a problem-focused short-term therapy that helps clients understand underlying interpersonal challenges such as unresolved grief, changes in social or work roles, conflicts with significant others, and difficulty relating to others.
Supportive therapy uses guidance and encouragement to help patients develop their own resources to build self-esteem, reduce anxiety, strengthen coping mechanisms, and improve social and community functioning.
Additional therapies sometimes used in combination with psychotherapy include:
Animal-assisted therapy – working with dogs, horses or other animals to bring comfort, help with communication and help cope with trauma.
Creative arts therapy – use of art, dance, drama, music and poetry therapies.
Play therapy – to help children identify and talk about their emotions and feelings.
Many therapists, including myself, use a combination of evidence0based therapies and can flexibly adjust to their client’s needs.
I hope this outline helps you better understand how to initiate your search for a therapist:
Self-reflect: Consider your specific needs and therapeutic goals, as well as the traits you would want to see in your therapist.
Some details to consider when searching for a therapist:
Therapist training and experience level
Short term/long term therapy approach
Self-pay cost/do they take insurance?
Virtual, office-based or option for both as needed
Specialized therapeutic approach vs. generalist
age range of the therapist
Therapist discipline, e.g., masters vs. doctoral level, psychologist vs. psychiatrist: See my website to learn about the differences and similarities.
Do some research; Options to Consider:
Seek recommendations: Ask for referrals from trusted sources such as friends, acquaintances, or medical providers. A therapist’s greatest source of referrals is word of mouth and building trusted relationships with referral sources such as schools, medical providers, and community agencies.
Google Maps can be a helpful place to search for services. Just input therapist & a keyword of the main symptom you'd like to address (stress, PTSD, depression, etc). There may also be online reviews to help with the decision making process.
Search trustworthy directories to create a list of potential therapists. Therapists may opt-in or request to be part of professional directories and databases, where they create detailed profiles that help you find someone who meets your needs. Further, many of the national platforms allow you to conveniently schedule consultations with perspective therapists. Some may require a fee for perspective clients; however, most are funded by the clinicians. Below are some of the many databases available to Boston Cambridge and MetroWest area residents.
Free Massachusetts Specific Directories:
Massachusetts Psychological Association : https://www.masspsych.org/page/AboutMPA
William James College INTERFACE Referral Service
National Database (usually require setting up an account).
Therapy Den: https://www.therapyden.com/
Good Therapy https://www.goodtherapy.org/
Consider online Therapy Companies: Since the pandemic began there has been a boom in the online therapy market with large companies such as Better Help and Cerebral. These companies are commonly used by Millennials and Generation Z as they offer affordable and flexible access to treatment. They also integrate technology such as clinician databases and communication options including text, email, phone support and telehealth. However, this approach may not be for everyone. Low reimbursement rates for therapy drive away talented clinicians.
Companies such as Grow Therapy and Alma offer both online therapy and private practice support for clinicians. The companies will bill insurance and all you pay is the co-pay.
Interview potential therapists in an Initial consultation call: Schedule a brief meeting to discuss your concerns and assess compatibility. Most therapists will begin with a 10-15 minute phone intake. I use this time to listen closely to a client’s needs and describe my specific approach. All therapists know that their approach and/or personality styles will not meet everyone’s needs. Having a good therapeutic match is essential to building a trusting relationship that is the foundation to therapy.
Tips: Be sure to ask a potential therapist if they are licensed to practice therapy in Massachusetts.
Evaluate the potential for a therapeutic relationship: Trust your instincts and gauge the rapport with the therapist. Consider logistics such as location, availability, and affordability.
Ongoing assessment: Regularly evaluate progress and adjust if needed. There is no crystal ball in determining who will be a good match for you. Not to worry, if you make a decision and it doesn’t feel right later on, that’s OK. Let the therapist know, even if it’s a quick email or text, and we’ll provide ideas and referral for your next steps. Don’t worry, we won’t be offended; we know how essential rapport and relationship building are to your healing.
I am confident that by following the above steps you will be able to find a therapist who can support your needs and help you on your journey of healing and growth.
Dr. Leavell, Boston's Stress Therapist
I've helped Boston area residents deal with stress, anxiety, chronic pain and other chronic physical issues. I am passionate about my work and would be happy to discuss my psychological services with you. Please feel free to contact me if you are looking for a therapist in the Boston Cambridge area. If you'd like to learn more about my therapy services then click here.
Remember, you don't have to face life's challenges alone. Reach out, seek support, and invest in your mental health.
I also invite you to check out my previous post titled Becoming unstuck in meditation where I focus on issues and frustrations with meditation.