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How to Find a Therapist

Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff

Fortunately, the U.S. and many countries around the world are home to numerous social workers, psychologists, or psychiatrists and other professionals who are qualified, competent, and caring. While training and credentials should be reviewed—and Psychology Today verifies the credentials of many professionals in its directory—studies indicate that the most important factor is the therapeutic alliance, or the relationship the client develops with the therapist and their ability to work together to achieve the client’s goals.

Where can I look for a therapist?

Using the Psychology Today Therapy Directory, you can search for therapists according to the challenges you face, the type of therapy you're interested in, therapists who take your insurance, and many other factors. Sometimes referred to as a "therapist finder," the directory aims to make the search for a therapist simple. The directory is much more than a list of therapists in your area, as it offers therapist recommendations tailored to your specific needs and preferences, and has become the leading website to find therapists in the world. Through the directory, you are empowered to find the therapist that's right for you, and start your journey to improved mental health.

What factors do most people consider when looking for a therapist?

In searching for a therapist, it’s important to assess potential candidates based on how well the therapist and client communicate and whether it seems like they’ll make a good team. Other factors include accessibility and location. For those who are able to see a therapist in person, a location close to home, work, or school will likely make attending therapy more feasible. For those who are unable to travel temporarily or permanently, or who are in underserved areas, online and teletherapy options are available and can be highly effective.

What are the signs of a good therapist?

When considering a therapist, it's crucial to understand what to look for in a therapist and know what makes for a good counselor. Any therapist under consideration should be empathetic, professional, and knowledgeable about the problems the client wishes to tackle. During a typical screening session or first meeting, a potential therapist should listen closely, openly discuss their approach and possible treatment goals, and behave sensitively toward any difficult information the client brings up. Some clients wish to see a provider who shares their gender, race, cultural background, or sexual orientation; consider whether those qualities are important before starting to screen therapists.

How can I find a therapist near me?

The Psychology Today Therapy Directory simplifies the process of locating a suitable therapist in your vicinity. By entering your location and preferences, you can access a diverse range of qualified professionals who are ready to provide the support you need and make the journey to improved mental health more accessible.

How can I find an online therapist?

Some people—particularly those who are homebound or who live in rural or low-income areas—may have difficulty finding therapists who are nearby, affordable, and accepting new patients. In these cases, finding a therapist who conducts sessions via telephone, Skype, or another online means may be the best approach. Though some consider in-person therapy to be preferable, there is significant evidence to suggest that, with a strong therapeutic alliance, therapy conducted online or over the phone can be an effective and accessible option for those who are unable to see a therapist in person.

What if I want to find a therapist who shares my racial or ethnic background?

Some individuals may want a therapist who shares their background, be it racial, ethnic, or religious, or understands their sexual orientation/preferences. This may make it easier to form a therapeutic alliance and focus on the work of therapy without the need to explain or provide context on certain matters. There are ways to find and work with a BIPOC therapist or a bilingual counselor near you, despite the challenges posed by a smaller pool of available therapists of color. It is important to note, however, that a therapist who demonstrates cultural sensitivity can be highly effective even if they do not share a client’s background or race. The Directory allows individuals to search for therapists according to these facets of identity.

What if I want a therapist who shares my cultural or religious background?

Many people feel most comfortable opening up to someone who shares key facets of their own identity, from gender to sexual orientation to broader cultural background. This may because there is less to "explain" to someone who understands one's community or religion. Research indicates that while many people seeking therapy debate whether to see a male or female therapist, gender is not the most critical variable in creating an alliance. Similarly, for some people it is important to seek out a therapist or a faith-based counselor who understands their religious background, even though a competent therapist is trained to help individuals of all backgrounds and faiths. A therapist can be screened for cultural competence by asking whether they've dealt with issues similar to your own or worked with people who share your background.

How should I email a therapist for the first time?

Knowing how to reach out to a therapist for the first time can set the tone for a productive therapeutic relationship. Begin by briefly introducing yourself and expressing your interest in their support. Explain your goals or concerns and why you believe they might be a good fit. This initial email is an opportunity to establish a sense of comfort and trust and opens the door for effective communication and collaboration as you embark on your journey toward emotional well-being.

How does one conduct a phone screen?

The first step in the therapeutic process is usually a brief phone call with prospective therapists, to learn more about them and gauge whether the relationship will be a good fit. Clients looking to initiate a phone screen with a therapist should reach out to them by email, phone, or their Psychology Today profile and request a consultation. This call will likely last less than 20 minutes.

Helpful questions include:

  • How might you best be able to help me?
  • Have you dealt with concerns such as mine before and if so, how frequently?
  • How does this process work?
  • What is a reasonable timeline for meeting and for treatment?

To determine if the relationship will be a good fit, clients should pay attention to whether or not they felt comfortable (or rushed) in the conversation and how knowledgeable the therapist was about the client’s specific concerns. It is also helpful to understand the modality or type of treatment the therapist specializes in, and the training involved in their licensing credential, i.e. social worker versus psychologist.

What questions should I ask a new therapist?

Sometimes it may be useful to ask a therapist questions about themselves in order to gauge if they will be a good fit. In some cases, these can be hard questions to ask your therapist, as historically, some therapists, particularly those with a psychodynamic approach, have wanted to project a “blank slate” and may decline to answer personal questions out of concern that it could interfere with the client’s progress, though this is on the wane. Cognitive behavioral therapists, on the other hand, may be more willing to answer reasonable personal questions if they determine it will help strengthen the therapeutic alliance. Not all questions need to be personal, however. Some good therapy questions to ask might include topics like what their expertise is in, what their process is like, and what you can expect during your time with them.

What if a prospective therapist declines to answer personal questions?

In some cases, knowing too much about a therapist’s life has the potential to negatively affect sessions, so regardless of modality, competent therapists will set firm boundaries and decline to answer questions that they deem too personal or irrelevant. If a client feels that they don’t know enough about a potential therapist to make a decision, they should mention this to the therapist; together, they can discuss what reasonable information could help the client make an informed choice.

What should I know to choose the right therapist for me?

When it comes to finding the right therapist, identifying one that suits your individual needs is essential. Start by identifying the specific goals and the challenges you want to address in therapy. Research therapists who specialize in those areas and consider their experience and therapeutic approaches. Don't hesitate to reach out and schedule initial consultations with a few therapists to gauge your comfort level and assess how well you connect. Picking the right therapist involves more than just credentials; it's about the rapport and trust you can build together to work toward your mental health goals.

Why can it be hard to find a therapist?

Finding quality mental health care can feel complex and daunting at times. The demand for mental health services has been growing steadily, leading to limited availability of experienced therapists, especially in certain geographical areas or specialized fields. Nevertheless, the search is often worth the effort, as it holds the potential to significantly improve one's well-being.

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