It’s hard to watch the one you love struggle. So when your husband or boyfriend decides (or agrees) to seek therapy, you probably don’t want to waste another moment. You want to get to work immediately on connecting him with the perfect therapist.
Not so fast, though: If you’ve ever been to therapy yourself, you understand how important it is to work with someone who’s a great fit. Everyone has unique requirements and needs from their therapist – so how can you help your partner find his right one? Here’s a step-by-step guide:
1. Let him know you're there to support him on his journey
The decision to seek therapy is rarely a light one, and your support can be a huge source of strength for your partner.
If he's still on the fence about starting, do your best to stay patient; know that someone can only be fully engaged in therapy when they're ready, and on their own terms. If you've been to a therapist in the past, you can level the playing field by sharing your own experience, as well as how you overcame any initial hesitation in the beginning.
2. Determine his therapy budget
Knowing whether your partner will work with an in-network or out-of-network provider determines your pool of potential therapists, right off the bat.
If he chooses to use his insurance:
- Find out how many sessions are covered by his insurance
- Find out how much his deductible and/or copay will be per session
The ultimate cost of each session depends on the above factors. If he's using his insurance, he can typically expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $80.
If he chooses to go out-of-network:
- Try applying for out-of-network benefits with his health insurance (learn how to do that with our step-by-step guide). Doing so can save him a lot of money in the long run.
If he’s paying out of pocket altogether (and not using out-of-network benefits either), sessions can cost between $80 to $250+.
3. Assess whether he should seek long-term or short-term counseling
Based on what he’s going through that led him to seek therapy, assess whether he would benefit from brief, short-term therapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy), or whether he needs longer treatment (such as psychodynamic therapy).
If you’re not sure, consider the following:
Short-term is generally more appropriate when:
- He has just one objective he wants to focus on (e.g., he is making a job transition, he has relatively recent symptoms of anxiety or depression)
Short-term typically entails meeting with a therapist for 8-16 sessions.
Longer-term therapy is often more appropriate when:
- The issue is ongoing, such as an addiction, a personality disorder, or major depressive disorder
- The issue is an integrated part of his personality, such as intense anxiety around social interactions
Longer-term therapy refers to treatment that happens over the course of at least six months.
4. Narrow down options based on preferred payment & length of treatment
So now you know how he’ll be paying for sessions, and have a general sense of how his presenting issues affect how long he’ll be in treatment.
Here are some questions to ask him so you can help further narrow the search down:
What gender does he prefer in a therapist?
He may feel more at ease, knowing he’s discussing a particular issue with someone who’s more easily relatable – whether that’s a therapist who identifies as male, female, or non-binary.
How often is he willing to go?
Sessions will likely be either weekly or biweekly; but note that most therapists recommend meeting weekly, especially when you’re starting out.
How far is he willing to travel?
To shave down extra commuting time, try to find therapists close to his home or work.
Is he open to online counseling?
If he travels frequently, can’t find therapists close to his location, or works odd hours, seeing an online therapist can be a great way to make sessions happen.
What availability does he have for the appointments?
What days, and times of day, work best with his schedule?
Remember that therapy is easiest to commit to when it’s not interfering with other activities or ongoing engagements.
5. Encourage him to schedule multiple calls – and help him prep
Once you’ve helped him narrow down his deal choices, encourage him to schedule multiple phone calls to ensure a great fit. If you’re looking on Zencare, you can book these calls (or send emails if that’s easier) directly through the therapist’s profile.
You can also provide guidance around what to expect on the phone call, such as
Questions he can ask the therapist to find a great fit
The more knowledge he has prior to sessions, the more effective his sessions will be! Asking questions like these can help him make a more informed decision:
- How frequently and long do you typically see clients? Note that most therapists see clients once a week, and require that clients see them weekly for at least the first two months.
- What therapy approach do you use with clients who are experiencing [x condition/circumstance]? It may help to learn about the different types of therapy so he knows what his options are.
Honest responses to questions the therapist may ask him
Just as it's helpful for him as a therapy seeker to know what he's in for, the therapist will also want to make sure they're able to provide adequate support! He may want to prepare to honestly answer questions like:
- Why are you considering therapy now? (e.g., he's been battling depression experienced; he a panic attack for the first time; he's experiencing a physical issue such as E.D. and would benefit from sex therapy)
- What are you looking for in a therapist? (e.g., skills-based counseling; someone who has experience helping clients with anger issues)
6. Honor the choice of therapist he makes
After he makes the initial phone calls, offer to discuss whether the therapists seemed like they be a good fit. Ask him questions like:
- Would you feel comfortable sharing more with [x] therapist?
- Did you feel like they were knowledgeable in [x] issue, and could help you?
- Did they use language that reflects your background and identities?
Once he’s decided on the therapist he wants to continue to see in person, get excited for him!
7. Stay supportive on his journey to better health!
Therapy is tough work, and chances are, he’ll need some support as he takes important strides towards getting better. Here are some ways to stay supportive – without intruding on his privacy:
Be understanding that counseling may open up old wounds
Try not to ask targeted questions, such as “what did you talk about in therapy today?” Therapy can air out some musty issues, and he may not be ready to share everything they went over.
Instead, try asking an open-ended question after sessions, like “How are you feeling today?”
Show him that you appreciate him for getting help
Small signs of appreciation – e.g., cooking for both of you on evenings he has therapy – can go a long way in showing that you encourage and validate his treatment.
Ask him what he needs from you
You’re not a mind reader – nor are you expected to be! Asking what, exactly, would be helpful from you as he continues therapy can make both of you feel more connected and supportive.
Open up the conversation with something along the lines of, "I’m so proud of you for starting therapy. What would be most helpful for me to do in supporting you?"
Just be there for him
Sometimes, all it takes is a hug or a warm note of encouragement to let him know you’re there.
High five to you and yours for taking this important step! Remember that patience and support are key in this journey. Give him plenty of space to process everything that’s coming up in therapy, and – as best you’re able – be there for him in moments of vulnerability.