I'm okay. Are you okay? No? Then let's find a shrink and get your crazy ass some help.

That approach to finding the right therapist is, . . . well, . . . okay. But there are better ways to do it. The first thing to understand is that most of the time, seeing a therapist has nothing to do with being crazy. We've all got problems. Therapy just involves talking privately to someone who has gone to school for many years to learn how to deal with them. (Don't worry about electrodes . . . they're optional).

If your situation is really bad, and you are seriously thinking of hurting yourself or ending your life, you need to stop reading this and go to an emergency room or dial 911. They can get you to somebody right away. You can also get help online from the Samaritans.

If your predicament is less urgent, but you think that talking to someone for a few weeks might sort out what's bothering you, there are some fairly simple steps to take. Therapy is a collaborative process, and it only works if you are comfortable telling your therapist everything he/she needs to know to help you.

Unfortunately, the process isn't free, and your therapist will charge either you or your friendly insurance company for his/her services. So, it's worth shopping around a while to find the right person.


Most interstate highways are not cluttered with billboards advertising licensed therapists, so finding a good, qualified professional may take a little bit of digging. If you're not at all sure where to begin, there are a number of standard places to go to get referrals. A referral is when somebody points you in the direction of a specific therapist. This is important because 1) it helps you find a good therapist, and 2) different therapists are better suited for different issues, and you want to find one that matches you. Once you make the call, that therapist can refer you to another one, and so on and so on. If you're hesitant about openly asking people where to get help, we found it easy just to pretend to be doing research for SoYouWanna.net.

Some of the most common places to get referrals include:

  • Your primary care doctor
  • State psychological organizations
  • Clinics at colleges or universities
  • Hospitals
  • Community mental health centers
  • Local clergy
  • Friends
  • Family members
  • The Yellow Pages

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and there are debates about which ones you should avoid. Friends may know you the best, but may not be able to line you up with someone who can really deal with your specific situation. Psychological organizations may have oodles of names, but no way to recommend the good ones. Reading the Yellow Pages may get you started, but could also distract you into shopping for an above ground swimming pool.

Regardless, a combination of these approaches should yield two or three people to at least call. If you are asking friends which therapist they would recommend, keep in mind that you don't have to wind up seeing that person. You can simply ask that therapist whom else he/she would suggest for your situation. It is probably not a good idea, though, to see a therapist whom you know socially. Chances are he/she would refer you to someone else anyway.

If you obtain a referral from a primary care doctor as part of a managed care plan, he/she may select someone on staff with their organization or a member of a network approved by your insurer.