Finding a therapist guide
HealthMental Health

Finding a therapist guide



Finding the right therapist can be a challenging but rewarding process. A good therapist can provide immense value through their expertise, compassion and support. This guide outlines tips and strategies for effectively finding a therapist that’s the best fit for your needs.

Steps for Finding a Therapist

Follow these key steps when beginning your search for a therapist:

  1. Identify your therapy goals and preferences
  2. Research therapist qualifications and specialties
  3. Check insurance coverage and cost
  4. Look for therapist options in your area
  5. Screen potential therapists by phone or video
  6. Schedule introductory sessions
  7. Choose the best therapist for you

Let’s explore each step in more detail:

1. Identify Your Therapy Goals and Preferences

First, reflect on your reasons for seeking therapy and what you hope to achieve. Some common therapy goals include:

  • Managing depression, anxiety or trauma
  • Improving relationships
  • Developing coping strategies
  • Overcoming grief and loss
  • Achieving personal growth

Also consider your preferences:

  • Gender: Do you have a gender preference for your therapist?
  • Age: Do you want someone closer to your age or does age not matter?
  • Religious/spiritual outlook: Is sharing similar beliefs important?
  • Location: Is commuting distance or online sessions a factor?
  • Cost: What can you afford to pay out-of-pocket per session?
  • Specialties: Do you want someone who focuses on your specific concern?

Defining your goals and preferences will help narrow your therapist search.

2. Research Therapist Qualifications and Specialties

It’s important to look for proper therapist qualifications. At minimum, a therapist should have:

  • A state license to practice therapy
  • A master’s or doctoral degree in a mental health field
  • Relevant training and clinical experience

When researching therapists, look for their qualifications, credentials and areas of specialty on their website or psychology profile.

Some common types of licensed therapists include:

  • Psychologists: Have a PhD or PsyD in psychology
  • Clinical social workers: Have a master’s in social work (MSW)
  • Marriage and family therapists: Have a master’s or PhD and focus on relationships
  • Professional counselors: Have a master’s or PhD in counseling

Seek out therapists who list experience treating your specific concern, such as depression, anxiety, trauma, relationship issues, eating disorders, LGBTQ+ matters, and more.

3. Check Insurance Coverage and Cost

The cost per therapy session can range from $50-$250+ depending on factors like geographic location, experience, specialty and insurance coverage.

Many therapists accept major insurance plans. Contact your health insurance provider to ask about mental health benefits, coverage amounts and copays for seeing an in-network provider.

Also ask potential therapists in advance if they accept your insurance. Some may charge lower rates for patients paying out-of-pocket without using insurance.

Inquire about sliding scale fees, which adjust costs based on income level. Resources like Open Path Collective connect people to affordable therapy options.

4. Look for Therapist Options in Your Area

There are several ways to find therapists near you:

Compile a list of 5-10 potential therapist names that fit your criteria.

5. Screen Potential Therapists by Phone or Video

It’s recommended to briefly screen potential therapists by phone or video chat before committing to an in-person session. A quick 10-15 minute intro call can help determine if they may be a good fit.

Key questions to ask during an initial screening include:

  • What is your therapeutic approach?
  • What is your experience treating my type of issue?
  • Are you currently accepting new clients?
  • Do you take my insurance? What are your rates?
  • What are your office hours and location? Do you offer remote sessions?

Pay attention to how comfortable you feel talking with the therapist. Do they listen attentively and seem caring? Did they clearly describe how they could help?

Narrow down your top choices after phone/video screenings.

6. Schedule Introductory Sessions

Schedule initial therapy consultations with 1-3 top candidates to experience what a session together would be like. Many offer free 30-minute intro sessions.

Come prepared to briefly share:

  • Your reasons for seeking therapy
  • A little background about your situation
  • Your goals and expectations

Observe how well you connect during the session. Did you feel heard, understood and supported? Were you comfortable opening up to this person? Do you believe this therapist has the right skills to help you?

After any intro meetings, reflect on your impressions to determine the best therapist match.

7. Choose the Best Therapist for You

Finding the ideal therapist takes time, but the investment is well worth it. The right therapist-client relationship built on trust, empathy and rapport can lead to deep healing and growth.

Let your gut instinct guide you once you’ve identified one or two potential therapists who seem like a great fit. The initial connection you feel will continue to develop with ongoing sessions.

Don’t get discouraged if it takes meeting with a few therapists before finding the right one. The process can take some trial and error, but eventually you’ll connect with the ideal person to support your mental health needs.

Questions to Ask a Potential Therapist

Here are some key questions to ask during initial phone/video screenings or introductory sessions:

  • What are your qualifications and mental health specialties?
  • What therapeutic approaches do you use?
  • How does your approach work with my specific concerns?
  • What is your experience working with patients like me?
  • What will our sessions together look like?
  • How can we set measurable goals for my treatment?
  • Do you incorporate other modalities like medication or group sessions?
  • What are your policies on confidentiality and emergencies?
  • Do you have experience with my culture/identity/background?
  • What are your rates and payment policies? Do you accept my insurance?
  • Do you have sliding scale fees based on income?
  • What are your availability and cancellation policies?

Use these questions as a guide when interviewing potential therapists. Take notes on their responses to compare across options.

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Red Flags to Watch Out For

While searching for a therapist, be alert to any red flags that indicate they may not be a good fit:

🚩 Makes inappropriate self-disclosures about their own life

🚩 Does not seem interested in understanding your perspective

🚩 Rushes to diagnostic labels after brief interaction

🚩 Recommends excessive medication or testing

🚩 Shows disrespect for other professionals or modalities

🚩 Has rigid, outdated views that lack cultural awareness

🚩 Does not clearly explain treatment approach and methods

🚩 Seems distracted, disorganized or unprofessional

🚩 Makes promises to “cure” you or “solve” your issues

🚩 Unable to supportively handle emotional responses

🚩 Refuses to collaborate and establish joint goals

🚩 Difficulty setting appointment boundaries and policies

Trust your instincts if anything seems off. You always have the right to politely end the intro session and continue your search if you have doubts.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Therapy

Once you’ve chosen a therapist, here are some tips to maximize your counseling experience:

Be open and honest. For therapy to work, you must be willing to openly share your thoughts and feelings. It takes courage but vulnerability allows room for growth.

Commit to regular sessions. Consistency is key – weekly sessions are ideal, at minimum every other week. Progress requires dedication over time.

Do any homework assignments. Your therapist may have practical “homework” to integrate learnings between sessions. Follow through to get the most benefit.

Track your moods and behaviors. Come prepared to sessions by keeping a journal to identify patterns.

Communicate if issues arise. If you feel disconnected, disagree with your therapist’s approach or hit other snags, promptly discuss concerns.

Have patience. Healing isn’t linear and progress takes time. Trust the process.

With commitment and an effective therapist-client partnership, counseling can lead to profound change. By taking time to choose the right therapist for your needs, you’re setting yourself up for success.

Finding Low Cost Therapy

The cost of therapy can be prohibitive for those without insurance or with limited coverage. Here are some tips for accessing lower cost options:


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