COVID has exacerbated the American mental health crisis. But when people seek help — for their children or themselves — it’s tough to find the right person. Often, the defaults are Google (“therapist near me”) or Facebook (“Does anyone know a therapist? Asking for a friend”).
Of course, there are plenty of professionals. Sometimes, too many: psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, you name it.
Many are excellent at what they do. But they are not businesspeople. They do not have websites — or if they do, they don’t include a lengthy bio, including education, specialty, technique and treatment philosophy.
How can a potential patient find a therapist. And how can a therapist get his or her name in front of people needing help?
Well, click on Family Consultants of Westport.
The site is the brainchild of Lauren Barnett. A Westchester native who “escaped” Florida 12 years ago when her husband’s work brought him to the area, she had a brainstorm last year.
Lauren spent 25 years in the mental health field. She was a middle school guidance counselor (“I love kids that age!”) and the director of a Berkshires girls summer camp.
She watched with concern as the emotional and psychological needs of youngsters grew — particularly in the last 5 years. She has 2 teenagers of her own.
“People are drowning,” she says. “They don’t know how to get the right help for their kids, or themselves.”
The mental health landscape is vast. Which means it’s intimidating to navigate — particularly during tough times.
Besides Google and Facebook, people can ask pediatricians and guidance counselors. Lauren is a “huge advocate” of their help. But, she notes, “they jump through so many hoops to meet the needs of kids with issues. They don’t have the time to vet everyone who’s out there, or match the right therapist with what a certain kid needs.”
Which is where she comes in.
Lauren curates a list of people who can help. It includes not just psychologists, psychiatrists and trained therapists, as well as recovery specialists, nutritional counselors, educational consultants and more. They address a broad range of behavioral, social and psychological concerns.
When she speaks to a client, she determines the type of help needed — and the type of personality that’s the best fit.
She uses herself as an example. “I might be drawn to someone boisterous, or with a sense of humor. But that might turn off someone else.”
Lauren makes 3 matches. She tells those 3 professionals to expect a call. Then she tells her client to call all 3, and make the decision that feels right.
“I do the legwork. I make the calls, so they can get help when they need it,” she explains.
Lauren has approximately 25 categories of professionals, with 25 or so names in each.
She speaks with new clinicians every day. They appreciate her service as much as clients.
Her initial interview takes about an hour. She learns about their background and training, and assesses their personality.
As they talk, they often mention the names of others. “She’s great with younger adolescents,” the might say. Or “he’s really good with social anxiety.”
“I want a broad network,” Lauren notes. “Therapy is not ‘one size fits all.’ You need the right fit for personality, approach and comfort level.”
Family Consultants of Westport is not just for parents needing help with their children. One client was “paralyzed” by her daughter’s issues. After finding Lauren, she realized she needed help too.
Lauren describes herself as “a sounding board, a point person, home base. I’m where you start, right at the beginning. The last thing you need is to waste hundreds of hours, and thousands of dollars, with the wrong therapist.”
(Click here for the Family Consultants of Westport website.)