I've been on the hunt for a therapist for the past few months — and unfortunately, all I've discovered that the holiday season is not the best time to find one. So, just when is the best time to look for a therapist? When I called a number of therapists I was interested in seeing, I learned that they were all booked straight through the holidays, and one office even told me this is their busiest time of year. Of course, if you need help immediately, you can find a therapist right now on LiveHealth online for $95 or less per visit — this can either turn into your long-term therapist, or provide a stop gap until you're able to find an in-person therapist you jive with, when it's easier to find one. So, when is it easier?
If you've ever looked for a therapist, then you know it's kind of like dating. You might not connect with the first one you see, or the second, or the third, but that doesn't mean you should give up. If you have health insurance that covers therapy, go to your provider's website to find a list of therapists in your area. Next, you can Yelp them to see what others are saying before calling to see if they're taking new patients. Alternatively, you can also go to Psychology Today, enter your zip code and insurance provider, and get a list of therapists in your area.
If you're having a good day, and you know you want to find a therapist, this is the day to do it. Because you might have the same experience as me, hearing that all the therapists you're interested in are fully booked, searching for one on a day you feel mentally strong can help you keep going until you find someone who is available.
In addition to how you're feeling, it turns out that it's easier to find a therapist on Friday than it is on Monday. According to data on the website Therapy Den from Jeff Guenther, a therapist who runs a therapy director service in Portland, Ore., Monday and Tuesday attract the most people looking for counseling. Aside from days of the week, January and March see the most people actively seeking therapy while November and December see the least.
"When people have the most free time (outside of work), they search for therapy the least. So, in November and December, when people typically have a lot of time off for holidays and often travel to visit family, we see a slow down in site traffic," Guenther said. "In January, when we are all back at work and it’s the dead of winter, pitch black at 5 p.m. and no vacations in site, people start searching for that therapist."
According to Guenther, the months when the least amount of people are looking for therapists are February, April, May, June, November, and December. However, that doesn't mean people already in therapy aren't keeping the therapist you want busy at the end of the year.
Mental health worker support network Owl Practice noted on its website that November is the busiest time of year for therapists seeing current patients, and there is a steady decline in December. This means that if you're looking for a therapist, January might be a good time.
If you need to see someone ASAP, and your job has an employee assistance program, you can generally get short-term therapy this way and then get referred to an outside therapist who takes your insurance. This is what I did when I was going through a divorce, and it was hugely helpful to me.
On Psych Central, Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D., explained: "EAPs are often part of the human resource department so ask there if your company has an EAP and how to access it. Usually you would see a counselor at the EAP for a set number of sessions (no charge to you) and if you want to continue they will refer you to a therapist in the community who will take your insurance."
It's also 100 percent confidential. If you're comfortable, you can also ask friends for referrals. This is how I found the best therapist I ever had. Overall, finding the right therapist is a process. Keeping going until you find someone who's a good match for you because you totally deserve it.